From left: Benny Gantz, Ehud Barak, Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu at an IAF ceremony, 2011.
From left: Benny Gantz, Ehud Barak, Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu at an IAF ceremony, 2011. Photo by Moshe Milner / GPO
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Israel's top ministerial forum, comprised of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's top eight minister, had not held a serious discussion concerning the Iranian standoff since late last year, an unnamed Israeli official told the Reuters news agency on Thursday.

"The octet hasn't held a proper discussion of Iran for months - since October, as far as I can recall," said the official, who had been briefed on the closed-door sessions.

"It's possible that, since then, Iran came up during other sessions, but I wouldn't count those as serious discussions. You can't make any concrete decisions or policy advances in an hour-long chat on the sidelines of a different agenda."

In addition, the official said the octet remained split on the issue, while Israel's top military and intelligence echelon were "entirely against" launching a unilateral strike on distant and well-fortified Iranian targets that would pose an unprecedented challenge to their forces.

Government spokesman Mark Regev declined to comment on the octet discussions. "This is a confidential forum," he said.

The unattributed remark came following recent remarks by former Israeli security officials as to the likelihood of an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Also on Thursday, frmer Mossad chief and national security adviser Ephraim Halevy was quoted by the New York Times as saying that if he were Iranian he "would be very fearful of the next 12 weeks".

Halevy also told Israel Radio on Thursday that if the Iranians "continue to play their games" in nuclear talks with world powers, they would be underestimating Israel's resolve.

"[The Iranians'] math is off if they think they have open-ended immunity" in these talks, he said.

His remarks came just after U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's visit to Israel, and amid circulating speculations of possible Israeli plans to strike Iran over its contentious nuclear program.

Panetta's visit coincided with an executive order by U.S. President Barack Obama to increase sanctions against Iran, targeting foreign banks that help Tehran sell its oil.

Netanyahu said earlier this week that Israel had not yet decided whether to strike Iran. After meeting with Panetta, he said Wednesday that U.S. statements of solidarity with Israel and its assurances that military strikes are still an option aren't working to convince Iran that the West is "serious about stopping" the Islamic republic from developing nuclear weapons.