Mossad intelligence service chief Meir Dagan said Monday that the specter of nuclear weaponry in Iran was the greatest threat that Israel has faced since its founding in 1948, Israel Radio reported.
Appearing before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee for the first time since assuming his post, Dagan said that Iran was close to the "point of no return" in developing nuclear arms.
An International Atomic Energy Agency report charged that Iran covered up past nuclear programs, including enriching uranium and processing small amounts of plutonium, essential elements of nuclear weapons.
Despite recent Iranian promises to cooperate with the IAEA, the Mossad believes Iran is determined to produce nuclear weapons to emulate North Korea and boost its status in the international community, Knesset spokesman Giora Pordes quoted Dagan as saying.
Dagan also briefed the lawmakers on the twin suicide attacks on Istanbul synagogues that killed 23 people on Saturday, telling them that contrary to news reports, Israel had no specific intelligence warnings before the attacks.
Dagan also cited as threats to Israel Tehran's support for terrorist organizations such as Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah, as well as the missiles that militants have deployed in southern Lebanon.
He said that one and a quarter million residents of northern Israel were in range of the missiles.
Mossad heads refrained from appearing before the committee in the past, fearing that sensitive information could be leaked to the news media, preferring to report to select subcommittees instead.
However, committee chairman MK Yuval Steinitz persuaded Dagan to brief the whole committee, Pordes said Monday.
Palestinian sources said Monday that Dagan had earlier met with Egypt's intelligence chief, General Omar Suleiman. Suleiman later held talks in Ramallah with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, pressing the case for Palestinian factions to declare a cease-fire.