Moshe Ya'alon
Vice PM Moshe Ya'alon pictured in August 2009. Photo by Emil Salman
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Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon said on Monday that Israel has the technological capabilty to launch a military strike against Iran.

Addressing a conference on air power, Ya'alon said Israel's experience in carrying out air strikes against militants along its borders could easily be extended to distant sorties in Iran.

"There is no doubt that the technological capabilities, which improved in recent years, have improved range and aerial refueling capabilities, and have brought about a massive improvement in the accuracy or ordnance and intelligence," he said.

"This capability can be used for a war on terror in Gaza, for a war in the face of rockets from Lebanon, for war on the conventional Syrian army, and also for war on a peripheral state like Iran," said Ya'alon, a former chief of Israel's armed forces.

Israel, which is assumed to have the region's only atomic arsenal, bombed Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981 and launched a similar sortie over Syria in 2007.

It has rarely used the term "war" in official statements on how to deal with Iran over a nuclear program which Israel and the West believe is aimed at building atomic weapons. Iran denies it has hostile designs.

Israeli leaders have spoken of leaving all options on the table in addressing the question of possible military action against Iran, and they have endorsed efforts by United Nations Security Council powers to impose new sanctions.

Israel's veiled threats against Iran have been questioned by some independent analysts who see the potential targets as too distant, dispersed and well-defended for Israeli jets to take on alone.

In his address at the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, Ya'alon posited air strikes to "decapitate or blind" an enemy by targeting its leadership or early-warning defenses.

"As far as I'm concerned, attack remains the best form of defense," he said.

Israel saw itself in a de facto war with Iran due to its sponsorship of Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas, Ya'alon said.

"There is no doubt, looking at the overall situation, that we are already in a military confrontation with Iran," he said. "Iran is the main motivator of those attacking us."

Meanwhile, in separate remarks, Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor said "there is still time" for diplomacy to work. He sought to play down Israel's interest in having Iran reined in, calling it a global challenge.

"If in the end of the day, Iran does get nuclear, in spite of what America says and wants, this will have grave implications for world order, the balance of power and the rules of the game," said Meridor, who, like Yaalon, belongs to Netanyahu's seven-member inner council.