ISRAELI Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has again raised the prospect of a military strike on Iran.
The PM has said Tehran will cease its nuclear program only in the face of “a credible military option”.
He declared yesterday that as Prime Minister he was the only person capable of bringing the Israeli public behind any peace deal with the Palestinians.
In a confident performance before foreign correspondents in Jerusalem, Mr Netanyahu also said he had made clear to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman his displeasure at his attack on members of Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party.
Mr Lieberman criticised members of Likud who are opposed to his proposal to investigate left-wing groups that he says are “delegitimising” the Israeli Defence Forces.
Mr Netanyahu was asked about an assessment by retiring Mossad director Meir Dagan that Iran is not likely to achieve nuclear weapons before 2015.
“Intelligence estimates are exactly that, estimates,” he said.
Of the UN economic sanctions against Iran, the Prime Minister said: “The only chance these sanctions will achieve their objectives would be to couple them with an understanding from Iran that if they don’t achieve their goal they would be followed by a credible military option.”
He said the only time Iran had paused its nuclear program was in 2003 when it believed there was a credible military option from the US.
Mr Netanyahu said there was no doubt the current sanctions had caused hardship in Iran “but they have not in any way altered Iran’s determination to pursue its nuclear program”.
He did not rule out a peace agreement with Syria but saw no willingness by Syria to break its relationship with Iran.
On Gaza, he said the economic circumstances of the Hamas-governed strip had improved since Israel had eased restrictions on imports but warned about consequences if the recent spate of rockets being fired into Israel continued.
“I think they will make a terrible mistake to test our will to defend our people. I think they will make a terrible, terrible mistake,” he said.
Mr Netanyahu was asked about comments by Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni that there was “an evil wave” sweeping Israel.
Ms Livni said Mr Lieberman was “harming the country” but held Mr Netanyahu responsible for rebuking his Foreign Minister for criticising Likud members but not for the substance of his proposals to target left-wing groups.
Ms Livni said Israel was “deteriorating and abusing the very values for which we want to fight”.
But Mr Netanyahu said: “I am committed to Israel as a Jewish, democratic state with democratic values.”
He contrasted that with the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah — “only 10 minutes from here” — where it was a law that anyone who sold property to a Jew faced the death penalty.
“Isn’t that worth reporting?” he asked.