US 'offered Israel arms' to delay Iran attack

Thursday 08 March 2012 16.07
Benjamin Netanyahu met Barack Obama last week
Benjamin Netanyahu met Barack Obama last week

The United States offered Israel advanced weaponry in return for it committing not to attack Iran's nuclear facilities this year, Israeli daily Maariv reported.

The report said that during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Washington this week, the US administration offered to supply Israel with advanced bunker-busting bombs and long-range refuelling planes.

In return, Israel would agree to put off a possible attack on Iran until 2013, after the US elections in November.

Unnamed Western diplomats and intelligence sources were cited in the report.

Israel and much of the international community fear Iran's nuclear programme masks a weapons drive, a charge Tehran denies, and it was top of the agenda at talks between Mr Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama in Washington this week.

The US and Israel are at odds over just how immediate the Iranian threat is. Mr Netanyahu said on Monday that sanctions against Iran have not worked, and "none of us can afford to wait much longer."

A key difference between Washington and Israel has emerged on the timeline available for a military strike against Iran, with the Jewish state warning that the weaponry available to it gives it a shorter window for action.

In response, the report said, the US administration offered to give Israel weapons and material that could extend its window to act against Iran.

In particular, it would offer bunker-busting bombs more powerful than those currently possessed by Israel, which would allow the Jewish state to target Iranian facilities even under solid rock.

Earlier this week, Israeli news website Ynet reported that the Israeli Military Industries announced they had upgraded their bunker-buster missile capabilities.

According to a poll published today in Haaretz, 58% of Israelis opposed an Israeli strike on Iran without US backing. The same poll, conducted among 497 Israelis, also found that over half of the respondents trusted Mr Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak in dealing with the Iran issue.

The Maariv report comes shortly after the five UN Security Council members and Germany offered to resume long-stalled talks with Tehran over its contested nuclear programme.

Israel has cautiously welcomed the talks, but warned it must be prepared for the potential failure of any new dialogue with Iran.