JERUSALEM – Two top Israeli security officials said Wednesday that the prospect of early national elections will have no influence over a decision over whether to strike Iranian nuclear sites.
Both Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon said in published comments on Wednesday that policy toward Iran will be based solely on strategic interests.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled this week that he may call parliamentary elections a year ahead of schedule — casting additional uncertainty over any Israeli military plans.
Israel considers Iran a threat to its existence because of its nuclear and missile development programs, frequent reference to Israel's destruction by Iranian leaders and Iran's support of violent anti-Israel groups in Lebanon and Gaza.
Israel has been warning for years that Iran is trying to construct nuclear bombs. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Both Barak and Netanyahu have often hinted at an Israeli military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, but no specific threats have been made, and some believe the talk is meant only as pressure.
Israeli media reported Wednesday that the election would be set for September 4.
"The election would have no affect on considerations on the professional level regarding the Iranian issue," Barak said on his Facebook page in answer to questions from the public.
Echoing Barak's sentiments was Deputy Prime Minster Moshe Yaalon. "The election will not be a consideration in the Iranian issue. If we need to make decisions we will make them," he told the Maariv daily.
There has been a precedent to big military offensive prior to an election.
Prime Minister Menachem Begin ordered a daring Israeli airstrike on an unfinished Iraqi nuclear in 1981 just a few weeks before Israelis went to the polls. His Likud Party won that election. Though that attack successfully destroyed the Iraqi reactor, critics charged that Begin ordered the raid to win votes.
An Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities now would likely trigger the same charges. In any event, success of such an Israeli strike is far from guaranteed, and the risk is far greater.
Iran is believed to have multiple well guarded underground nuclear sites. An Israeli attack would require that almost all of its fleet fly over hostile countries and face formidable Iranian defense systems.
Also, an Israeli attack on Iran would likely trigger punishing retaliation from Iran itself and its proxies on Israel's borders — Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza — both armed with thousands of rockets.
Israel is also under international pressure not to act militarily. The U.S want Israel to give sanctions imposed on Iran more time.
With debates of an attack being aired publicly Israel has lost the element of surprise, a key to the 1981 air raid's success.
Barak warned earlier this week that as long as Iran poses a threat to Israel with its nuclear program, an Israeli strike remains an option.
"It would be complicated with certain associated risks. But a radical Islamic Republic of Iran with nuclear weapons would be far more dangerous both for the region and, indeed, the world," he said.