JERUSALEM — A security assessment drawn up Israeli defense chiefs calls for contingency plans to be drawn up for military action against Iran, the Haaretz daily reported on Sunday.
The assessment, to be presented to ministers next month as part of the National Security Council's annual review, also calls for Israel to prevent new Palestinian elections at all costs, even at the expense of a row with its US ally, the paper said.
Defense chiefs put "Iran's threat to Israel's survival" at the top of the list of challenges they face, followed by the "strategic threat" of long-range missiles and rockets from various countries in the region.
"Israel faces these threats almost alone," Haaretz quoted the report as saying. "It is imperative to mobilise the international community and obtain regional cooperation. The new American administration is an opportunity to do this."
Defence chiefs warn that Israel has a limited window in which to act before Iran obtains nuclear arms and regional hegemony.
They call for Israel to establish a military option against Iran, in case other countries abandon the struggle, and advise the cabinet to "work discreetly on contingency plans to deal with a nuclear Iran."
Their assessment also recommends close cooperation with the United States to prevent a deal between Washington and Tehran that would undermine Israeli interests.
The leaking of the report came as outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was due in Washington for talks with US President George W. Bush which were expected to be dominated by the perceived threat from Iran.
The two governments suspect Tehran of seeking to develop an atomic weapon under cover of its civilian nuclear programme, a charge Iran strongly denies.
Washington is installing an advanced radar system in Israel to boost defenses against any ballistic missile threat from Iran. It will go operational in mid-December, army radio reported on Saturday.
Defense chiefs also warn that Western-backed Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas might disappear from the political arena when his term ends on January 9, undermining prospects for a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict.
They say there is a risk of the Islamist Hamas movement repeating the upset victory it won in 2006 parliamentary elections, and recommend "preventing elections in the Palestinian Authority, even at the cost of a confrontation with the United States and the international community."
Abbas's supporters insist that the Palestinian constitution allows the president to remain in office until new parliamentary elections are held in 2010, but Hamas insists it will not recognise his authority beyond January.
Defence chiefs want plans drawn up for a major ground offensive in the Gaza Strip in the event of the collapse of the Egyptian-brokered truce with Hamas which went into force in June.
"If the truce collapses and conflict is resumed in the Gaza Strip, Israel must act to topple Hamas's rule there," Haaretz quoted them as saying.
Defense chiefs also urge the government to press ahead with direct peace talks with Syria, in the expectation of a more supportive position from the new US administration.
"An agreement with Syria must be advanced, despite the heavy price Israel would have to pay," Haaretz quoted the assessment as saying.
Withdrawal from the entire Golan Heights right down to the Sea of Galilee, Israel's main water source, is a price worth paying for removing Syria from the Middle East conflict and weakening the radical axis between Syria, Iran, Hamas and Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah, the defense chiefs advised.
They also urged Israeli vigilance about US arms supplies to its Arab allies, particularly Egypt and Saudi Arabia, warning that they could undercut Israel's "edge, especially in the air."
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