BEIRUT

Middle East

Most of Israel security cabinet backs Iran strike: report

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a conference in Jerusalem March 13, 2012. REUTERS/Lior Mizrahi

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: A majority of Israel's security cabinet now supports an attack on Iran in a bid to end its nuclear programme, an Israeli newspaper reported on Thursday, citing political sources it did not identify.

Writing in the Maariv daily, influential columnist Ben Caspit said most of the 14-member security cabinet was now leaning in favour of a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, a move which he said was supported by both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak.

"According to the most recent assessments, at this point eight ministers tend to support Netanyahu and Barak's position, while six object to it," Caspit wrote.

"It should be noted that the security cabinet has yet to hold a decisive meeting on the issue and the assessments are based on secret talks being held between the prime minister and his ministers, one at a time."

Caspit noted that Netanyahu has convened neither his security cabinet, nor the more intimate Forum of Eight -- a consultative body of his closest ministers -- since returning from talks about Iran with US President Barack Obama.

"The longer the silence from Netanyahu and Barak's direction continues, the more concerned the opponents of an attack on Iran become," Caspit said.

Ynet news website reported on Thursday that the members of Netanyahu's inner circle had expressed resentment about his lack of consultation with them in recent weeks.

They said they had not been briefed on either Iran or on the recent violence in and around Gaza.

"Some of the ministers feel that they are being used as a rubber stamp," a cabinet member told Ynet.

"We weren't briefed on the situation in Gaza even once. Netanyahu apparently feels confident enough to make all the decisions by himself, or with Barak, without including any of the other ministers."

Sources close to Netanyahu confirmed that neither the security cabinet nor the Forum of Eight had been convened recently, Ynet said, but added that Netanyahu "consults with the relevant people constantly."

In recent months speculation has been rising about the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear programme, which the Jewish state and much of the international community believe masks a weapons drive.

Iran denies the charges, saying the programme is for civil power generation and medical purposes only.

The United States has said it opposes an attack for now, calling for time to allow tough new sanctions against Tehran to bite.

 

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