Mofaz: Israel Prepared to Defend Itself Against Iranian Attack

Defense Minister says country will take all necessary steps to defend itself from a possible nuclear attack.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Monday that Israel would take all necessary steps to defend itself from a possible Iranian nuclear attack, and denounced Tehran's nuclear talks as an attempt to buy time to develop arms.

Iranian and Russian nuclear officials said Sunday they had agreed on a joint uranium enrichment project to reassure the world that Tehran was only developing nuclear power for peaceful means. The deal, which has yet to be confirmed by Moscow, could deflect any move by the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency at a March 6 meeting to recommend the UN Security Council consider action against Iran.

Mofaz said Israel backed U.S. and European calls for the issue to go to the Security Council. Israel considers Iran to be its biggest threat, and concerns have been heightened in recent months by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's calls to wipe Israel "off the map."

"As for the possibility of an Israeli attack [on Iran], I think it is not at all right to address this question publicly, but it can be said that Israel has the right and the obligation to do all that is necessary to defend itself," Mofaz told students at a Tel Aviv-area high school.

Israel Air Force jets destroyed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor, near Baghdad, in a 1981 strike using conventional munitions.

Mofaz implied that while Israel was ready to let diplomacy run its course for now, it would not stand by indefinitely.

"In addition to joining the nations of the world who think that the right course at this moment, at this hour, in these days and in this year is to try and stop this threat by diplomatic efforts at the Security Council, we also owe it, primarily to ourselves, to deal with everything that ensures the existence of the state of Israel for all eternity, and we are doing so," he said.

Mofaz describes Israel's 'future borders,' including ArielMofaz, setting out a vision of the nation's "future permanent borders," has listed settlement blocs Israel would retain under a future peace deal or unilateral withdrawal, stressing that Ariel would be part of Israel and be included within the West Bank fence.

"When speaking of the permanent borders, the future borders of Israel, the settlement blocs and the Jordan Rift Valley are included within them," Mofaz said in remarks broadcast on Army Radio Monday.

The list of blocs went somewhat beyond a similar list which Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert detailed three weeks ago during a television interview.

But it also indicated that a number of settlement blocs would not be retained. Mofaz made no mention of the South Mount Hebron bloc, the Ofra-Beit El bloc, Itamar-Elon Moreh, and Shavei Shomron.

"We can list the settlement blocs. We are speaking of Ma'aleh Adumim, Gush Etzion, Efrat, the Ariel area, Karnei Shomron, Reihan and Shaked.

"These are the blocs of which we are speaking, and it is also the response regarding Ariel. Ariel is a vital and well-established city in Israel. It will be entirely within the fence."

Ariel, second only to Ma'aleh Adumim in population among settlement-cities, is unusual in that it is located well within the pre-1967 war Green Line border between Israel and the West Bank.