Israel should launch a pre-emptive strike to prevent arch-foe Iran from going nuclear, a former head of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency said on Monday.
"I am of the opinion that, since there is an ongoing war, since the threat is permanent, since the intention of the enemy in this case is to annihilate you, the right doctrine is one of pre-emption and not of retaliation," Shabtai Shavit told a conference.
Shavit, who served as chief of Israel's foreign spy agency from 1989 to 1996, was speaking at a conference held at the hawkish Bar Ilan University outside Tel Aviv.
"To use retaliation as the main strategy means to sit idly and wait until the enemy comes to attack you," a university statement quoted Shavit as saying.
"But we are dealing with an enemy that plans all the time and waits for the opportunity to arise in order to attack, so what is the point, even morally, to wait and do something only when we are attacked," he said.
Israel, which has the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear arsenal, regards Iran as its principal threat after repeated predictions by the Islamic republic's hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of the Jewish state's demise.
Along with the West, it suspects Iran of trying to develop atomic weapons under the guise of its nuclear programme, a claim Tehran denies.
Israel has backed US-led efforts to prevent Iran developing a nuclear weapons capability through sanctions, but has also refused to rule out military force.
In 1981 Israel bombed an Iraqi nuclear reactor and reportedly also attacked a suspected Syrian nuclear facility in 2007.
Iran insists that its nuclear programme is aimed solely at power generation and medical research and says that the international community should focus its attention on Israel, which, unlike Iran, is not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
© AFP 2013