Israel's defence minister said on Wednesday that an Iran armed with nuclear weapons would be far more dangerous to the Jewish state than the possible consequences of preventing it from obtaining those arms.
"We might have to reach difficult and fateful decisions regarding Israel's national security and ensuring its future," Ehud Barak told graduates of the national security college in remarks relayed by his office.
"I am well aware and have in-depth knowledge of the difficulties and the complexities involved in thwarting Iran's reaching nuclear arms," he said.
"But I have no doubt that dealing with that same threat once it ripens, if it ripens, will be vastly more complicated, dangerous and exacting in human lives and resources," said Barak.
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Israel, the sole if undeclared nuclear power in the Middle East, says Iran's nuclear programme poses an existential threat to it, and has repeatedly refused to rule out military action to halt Tehran's nuclear activity.
In video remarks broadcast at the same Wednesday event, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Iran's nuclear programme "a threat to us, to the Middle East, to world peace."
"We are galvanising the international community to hard, heavy pressure against Iran, and are committed to doing anything we can to stop it from becoming nuclear," he said.
Iran refuses to bow to Western demands that it curb its sensitive uranium enrichment under the pressure of punishing economic sanctions that were ramped up at the beginning of the month to their toughest level so far.
Tehran is demanding that its "right" to enrichment be recognised and that the sanctions be eased.
The Islamic republic rejects Western suspicions that it is seeking a nuclear weapons capability, insisting that its nuclear ambitions are entirely peaceful.