JERUSALEM Despite saber-rattling from Jerusalem, Israeli officials now agree with the U.S. assessment that Tehran has not yet decided on the actual construction of a nuclear bomb, according to senior Israeli government and defense figures.
Even so, there is great concern in Israel about leaving Iran on the cusp of a bomb explaining why Israel continues to hint at a military attack on Irans nuclear installations before it moves enough of them underground to protect them from Israels bombs.
Israels leaders have been charging in no uncertain terms for years that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons. Though officials say they accept the more nuanced American view, they warn that it is just a matter of semantics, because an Iran on the verge of being able to build a bomb would still be a danger.
The U.S. is playing up its assessment that Iran has not made its final decision in a public campaign to persuade Israel to call off any attack plan and allow the increasingly harsh sanctions against Iran time to persuade Tehran to back down.
The concern which is widely shared in Israel as part of a complex calculation is of an Iranian retaliation that might spark regional conflict and send oil prices soaring, at a time when the world economy is already struggling and U.S. presidential elections loom.
Also in the equation are concerns about the ability of the Israeli home front to withstand a sustained barrage of Iranian missiles fired in retaliation. Iranian surrogates Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip could also bombard Israel with thousands of rockets, and U.S. troops in the Gulf region could also become targets.
Several senior Israeli officials who are privy to intelligence and to the discussion about the Iranian program, spoke in recent days to The Associated Press. They said Israel has come around to the U.S. view that no final decision to build a bomb has been made by Iran, but there are also questions about whether Tehran might be hiding specific bomb-making operations.