JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A former deputy of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday a pre-emptive military strike against Iran over its nuclear program could embroil Israel in a “disastrous war”.
Shaul Mofaz, a parliamentary opposition leader who quit Netanyahu’s cabinet last month where he served as vice premier, said on Israeli television he thought Israel was “planning a hasty, irresponsible event”.
The former general and defense minister said he thought Israel could not do anything to force a strategic change in Iran’s nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at producing atomic weapons. Tehran says it is for peaceful purposes.
As a member of Netanyahu’s security cabinet for two months, Mofaz was privy to deliberations on Iran’s nuclear program.
He told Channel 2 television in a studio interview that any Israeli military action “can at the most delay it (Iran’s program) by about a year, and it can bring upon us a disastrous war”.
Naming both Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, he said he was “very worried at what they are preparing”. He added: “I hope very much we don’t reach such a war because it would be a disaster.”
Days after he quit the cabinet late in July in a dispute about military conscription policy, Mofaz, who heads the centrist Kadima party, cautioned he would not back any Israeli military “adventures”.
His comments echoed those of other former Israeli security officials who have spoken against any unilateral attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, with some saying such an assault could spur Tehran to speed up uranium enrichment.
Some officials have also voiced concern that any strike could prompt Iran’s proxies in the region, such as Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, to launch rocket attacks on Israel.
Israel, widely believed to be the only atomic power in the Middle East, views Iran’s nuclear program as an existential threat, citing threats made by leaders of the Islamist nation to destroy the Jewish state.
There has been an upsurge in rhetoric from Israeli politicians this month suggesting Israel might attack Iran’s nuclear facilities ahead of U.S. presidential elections in November.
Netanyahu is frustrated that Western diplomacy to try to force Iran to rein in its program has so far proved fruitless. Reported intelligence leaks that Tehran has been accelerating rather than scaling back its program have added to tensions.
However senior Israeli officials have said that a final decision about whether to attack Iran has not yet been taken, with ministers disagreeing over the issue and the military hierarchy unhappy about the prospect of going it alone without full U.S. backing.
Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Pravin Char
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