Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assured the Israeli public in an interview broadcast Monday night that he could order an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities if he felt he had no choice, dpa reported.
Asked whether, if he is reelected premier in Israel's January 22 elections, he could pledge that by the end of his next term that Iran would not have a nuclear programme, he replied simply, "Yes."
He said that if sanctions or other international actions failed to deter Iran, he would do whatever was necessary to stop Iran from getting a nuclear bomb, even if he acted against the wishes of the United States.
The premier made the comments in an investigative report, broadcast on Channel 2 television, which claimed that in 2010 he and Defence Minister Ehud Barak ordered then-military Chief of Staff Gaby Ashkenazi and then-Director of the Mossad Intelligence Agency Meir Dagan to initiate the "P+ code, allowing for the military to prepare for an imminent operation, ahead of a possible attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.
The instruction was given following a meeting in Jerusalem involving seven top ministers, said the programme "Uvda" (Fact.)
Both Ashkenazi and Dagan however vehemently opposed the order. Ashkenazi argued that the full cabinet should make such decisions, and that in any case the military did not have the operational capability to carry out an attack at such short notice.
Furthermore, Netanyahu and Barak should not have placed the military on alert unless they were absolutely certain about going ahead with an attack that could trigger a war.
"It's not something you do if you are not sure that in the end you want to carry it out," Ashkenazi is seen in the programme as saying in a meeting.
Netanyahu and Barak eventually backed down and the "P+ code" was never implemented.
Since leaving their respective posts, both Ashkenazi and Dagan have been outspoken in their opposition to any possible Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
Israel regards Iran's suspected nuclear weapons drive as an existential threat, based on remarks by Iranian leaders that the Jewish state should be wiped off the map.
Iran had planned to inaugurate its Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant in 2010, and the plant eventually opened a year later.
Channel 2 did not specify when exactly in 2010 the meeting took place.
Barak, who was interviewed for the programme, did not deny that the chief of staff had been asked to place the military on a pre-operation alert, but noted that the move would not necessarily have led to an imminent attack.
He also said that Ashkenazi's opposition to the alert stemmed from the fact that the army could not implement the necessary state of alert.
"The assumption that if the chief of staff doesn't recommend a course of action, that action isn't operationally feasible, is baseless," Barak said.
The chief of staff could give his professional opinion, but the government was free to accept or reject is recommendation and decide on a different course of action, Barak said.