Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon
Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon. Photo by Archive
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In a rare public reference to a sensitive subject, a member of the inner cabinet said yesterday that Israel is already essentially in confrontation with Iran and possesses the necessary capabilities to attack the Islamic Republic.

Vice Prime Minister and Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon, a former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, made the remarks at a conference on Israel's air power at the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies in Herzliya. The institute was established by the Israel Air Force Association

"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, with its funding and training of Hezbollah," Ya'alon said.

"There is no doubt that [Israel's] technological capabilities, which improved in recent years, have improved range and aerial refueling capabilities, and have brought about a massive improvement in the accuracy of 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."

Israel has rarely used the term "war" in official statements on how to deal with Iran's nuclear program.

"As far as I'm concerned, offense remains the best form of defense," Ya'alon said, adding that the anti-missile system being developed by the defense establishment "can make things easier for the public, but won't keep Israelis out of shelters in their hour of need. It will, however, significantly reduce the damage caused."

An adviser to Ya'alon said the minister had been "speaking in generalities," and did not intend to directly refer to the possibility of an Israeli strike on Iran.

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, at 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.

Yaalon's comments came just days after diplomats from 189 nations were gathered in New York for a five-year review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, of which Iran is a member, while Israel is not.