Vice PM: If Left to Choose Between Nuclear Iran and Strike, Israel Must Opt to Attack

In exclusive interview, Moshe Ya'alon shares his political aspirations and 'moral disappointment' with Barak.

If Israel is forced to choose between bombing Iran and allowing Iran to obtain a nuclear bomb, it must choose the former, Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon said in an exclusive interview with Haaretz.

Ya'alon, who is also minister of strategic affairs, said that during the past few months, Iran has significantly stepped up the pace of its uranium enrichment. The full interview appears in Friday's Haaretz Magazine.

If the Islamic Republic is not stopped, it will have sufficient enriched uranium to manufacture seven or eight atomic bombs within a year, and it will be capable of putting together a more primitive nuclear device, a so-called dirty bomb, in less than six months, he said. As a result, according to Ya'alon, the Iranian nuclear threat is like a sword held to Israel's throat. If the diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran are not increased swiftly, and if there are no other positive developments, he said the moment of truth will soon arrive.

"Under no circumstances will Israel agree to let the sword touch its throat," Ya'alon stressed. "I hope that with regard to Iran it will be possible to say, as the old saw goes, that the work of the just is done by others," he said. But, he added, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me?"

In recent years, Ya'alon has been perceived as a dove with regard to Iran. He said he dislikes the various Holocaust comparisons with regard to Israel and Iran's nuclear program, but does see some similarity between Israel's present situation and its situation on the eve of the 1967 Six-Day War.

During the interview, Ya'alon described his ideological conversion, from Labor to Likud, and noted that as long as the Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, he will oppose all territorial concessions and the establishment of a Palestinian state. Ever since "land-for-peace became land-for-terror and land-for-rockets," he said, "I am not ready to forgo a millimeter." Ya'alon said he is not disturbed by the prospect of the current situation continuing, even for 100 years, and said the number of settlers in the West Bank could reach 1 million. Ya'alon expressed "moral disappointment" with Ehud Barak, whom he says has distanced himself from his principles. In response to a question about media personality-turned-politician Yair Lapid, Ya'alon said, "I find the notion that you can move from the media to being the leader of the country a bit childish."

Ya'alon acknowledged that, in the distant future, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "decides that he no longer wants to head the party and the country," he can "definitely" see himself contesting the leadership. "The premiership, too."