Danny Ayalon, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, denied on Monday that the Jewish state had ruled out a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Mr Ayalon’s comments came a day after Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s president, said in an interview with CNN that he had been assured by his Israeli counterpart that Israel would not strike Iran.
Mr Medvedev said Shimon Peres, a former Israeli premier whose current role is largely ceremonial, made the pledge during their meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi last month. According to Mr Medvedev, a strike on Iran would result in “a humanitarian disaster” that may draw an Iranian retaliation against Israel and other countries.
Referring to Mr Medvedev, Mr Ayalon said in an interview: “He may have misunderstood or misinterpreted. But categorically, Israel is not taking any option off the table, as nobody should.”
Iran’s nuclear facilities have long been a major concern for Israel, and they are viewed by the current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, as the biggest threat to the country’s existence.
Mr Netanyahu made a secret visit to Moscow this month in what Israeli media reported was a bid to convince Russia not to deliver its advanced S-300 surface-to-air missile systems to Iran.
Mr Netanyahu is expected to tackle Iran’s nuclear ambitions during his speech on Thursday at the annual high-level session of the UN General Assembly in New York.
On Tuesday, the Israeli premier is due to meet Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the western-backed Palestinian Authority, for the first time since taking power in March. The two men will take part in a tripartite summit hosted by Barack Obama, the US president, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
Mr Netanyahu has sought to shift the Obama administration’s focus away from its demand for Israel to freeze Jewish settlement construction and instead deal with Iran.
Mr Ayalon said that it is currently “almost the last chance” to resolve the Iranian issue diplomatically before more aggressive action may be needed. Mr Obama has offered to launch negotiations with Tehran without preconditions but he is seeking progress by the end of this year.
Mr Ayalon added: “Definitely, and I think it was also conveyed by the entire international community, that if dialogue doesn’t work, then we’ll have to resort to our means, like very crippling – and I am quoting very important personalities – sanctions on the Iranians. Iran is very weak. It’s a very vulnerable country. Real effective sanctions will grind their economy into a halt.”