Military Option Against Iran is ‘still on the Table’

Neither Israel nor the United States has eliminated the military option against Iran, according to a senior Israeli official.

Briefing journalists Thursday on President Bush’s talks in Jerusalem, the official said that while both countries preferred diplomatic and economic measures, they did not “remove any option from the table.”

“I don’t want to speak for the president, but when we say all options are on the table, this is not just words,” the Israeli declared, underlining his country’s seriousness.

The official said that Bush had acknowledged both in public and in private the danger posed by the Iranian nuclear weapons’ program.

“Iran was a threat, Iran is a threat and Iran will be a threat if the international community does not come together and prevent that nation from the development of the know-how to build a nuclear weapon,” Bush declared at a joint news conference Wednesday with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

While Bush’s meetings with Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have focused mostly on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, Iran is high on the agenda for Israel and the United States.

Bush began his mission to the Middle East in Jerusalem on Wednesday. After meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials, he will be heading to the Persian Gulf states, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Asked whether Israel had shown the president any intelligence contradicting the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate that Iran had stopped its clandestine military nuclear program in 2003, the official said: “This is one of the areas our countries and establishments, including the intelligence establishment, are working in very close cooperation. We don’t wait for any special event before passing on information. I assume that the president knows whatever we do.”

Bush’s upcoming visit to the Gulf region, Saudi Arabia and Egypt would be very significant, the official said, as it could help strengthen the moderate Arab coalition against Iran. He said pressure from the moderates “will hopefully turn into meaningful influence on Iran’s calculus regarding its nuclear program.”

The official confirmed that Israel and the United States had discussed the ongoing rocket attacks on southern Israel from Hamas-controlled Gaza, and said the Americans recognized Israel’s need to take military action in response.

The United States “understands Israel has the right, and that sometimes it has no choice but to take action to defend itself,” he said.

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