TEL AVIV, Israel, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- At a recent conference in Tehran Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad predicted Israel's days are numbered.
The Zionist regime will "vanish," he declared. Last year he said Israel should be "wiped out."
Analysts maintain Iran needs a year or more to produce 25 kilos of enriched uranium for a first nuclear bomb. That bomb might be ready by the end of the decade.
Israel has been trying to mobilize the world to block Iran. "We hope... the world will pull itself together and act firmly to block the danger in time," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday. The United Nations' Security Council has taken "an important step in the right direction," he added.
There is another venue. Former minister Dan Meridor headed a government-appointed committee that recently recommended a defense policy for the next decade. It devoted 50 of its 250-page report to an examination of ways to deal with the nuclear threat.
Meridor discussed it with the prime minister, the defense minister and the Mossad intelligence service. Parts of it are so secret that even the military's General Staff was not apprised of it.
Maj. Gen. in the reserves Yaakov Amidror, who dealt with the threat during his military career, said at a recent discussion in Tel Aviv that Israel has two options. "None are good, each one is difficult and each one is dangerous," he said.
One is to stop the Iranians by force. It would be a much more difficult task than Israel's attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981. The Iranian facilities are farther away. Israel would need "very, very accurate intelligence" to hit the "network of installations" spread over a wide area. Some installations are located in underground tunnels, he added.
Attacking Iran is tantamount to signing an open check because the minute Teheran will have a bomb, it will retaliate, he warned.
The alternative is to accept the fact Iran will be a nuclear power and focus on defense.
Israel would need an "active defense system" including missiles that could intercept Iranian attacks. It already has the Arrow ballistic missile interceptor and might want the United States to provide more weapons and deploy naval systems off its coast. It would have to invest energy and funds in preparations for subsequent, more advanced Iranian missiles.
"There is no human possibility of building a system that is 100 percent safe," Amidror stressed.
Israel is very small, most of its population is near Tel Aviv, so every nuclear attack could cause terrible damage.
Israel would therefore need a deterrent that the Iranians would know that if they attack, Israel will retaliate so forcefully that, "There won't be any Iranians left to count their dead," Amidror said.
However, some experts doubt Israel can deter what they described as the ideology that Ahmadinejad and other Iranians espouse.
Deterrence worked during the Cold War because the U.S. and Soviet leaders were rational, but Shiite-Muslims might be different. Some Iranians, including Ahmadinejad, believe that the imam who disappeared 1,000 years ago is about to return. Bloodshed will speed his coming and then the Muslims will rule the world.
Should Israel then try to join NATO?
Meridor's committee considered the idea. It would limit Israel's options, he said.
"I don't think that in any military alliance one side (in this case, Israel) can take action without the other side (its partners) agreeing, or else you (Israel) will not be protected by the results," he maintained.
"Israel's deterrence is. ...built on our capabilities that I think are quite impressive .... and on the readiness and ability to take an action based on this capability," he added.
The country's enemies believe the United States is committed to defend it. "Is a formal alliance such an important addition? ... The enemy should know that I am the man, or the government, that is going to defend my people even at this or that cost and I don't think that an official alliance will add much to that," he said.
Professor Uzi Arad who was responsible for research in the Mossad and later top adviser to the then Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, advocated "maximum deterrence."
Israel should threaten to strike "everything and anything of value," he said.
Should Israel threaten to hit their leadership? Yes. Their holiest sites? Yes. Everything together? Yes, Arad recommended.
However Isaac Ben-Israel, a retired major general who heads Tel Aviv University's Security Studies Program doubted deterrence would succeed.
A nuclear bomb that would explode on board a ship at Haifa port would kill some 5,000 people, he said. "What rational Israeli leader would drop a bomb on Teheran knowing that another (Iranian) missile would come?"
Would Prime Minister Ehud Olmert "Do something in which tens of thousands of people would be killed in addition (to those 5,000)? .... Deterrence doesn't exist for long unless (antagonists) ... can totally destroy each other," he added.
An effective preemptive strike is possible, Ben-Israel continued. Building a nuclear bomb is a process of many stages, one leading to another. There is no need to attack all the installations involved. It is enough to hit one of the links, and if Iran has two nuclear programs underway, then two spots, he said.
Underground tunnels are not bomb proof. Ben-Israel, who planned the bombing of the Iraqi reactor, said its core was surrounded by 2X2X2 meters of reinforced concrete at a depth of 36 meters. It was destroyed a quarter of a century ago, he noted.