Netanyahu's speech to MPs prepares for attack on Iran

Israeli commentators speculated yesterday that the country's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is preparing the public for war against Iran after he delivered his most decisive speech yet on the nuclear threat posed by its arch foe.

Just over a week after returning apparently empty-handed from Washington, where he tried to enlist US support for a pre-emptive strike, Mr Netanyahu appeared to hint that he might strike Iran's nuclear facilities even without backing from the US, potentially signalling a decision to attack within weeks or months.

"Israel has never left its fate to others, not even the best of its friends," Mr Netanyahu told Israel's parliament, the Knesset, citing occasions when Israel acted against US wishes. Israeli newspaper Maariv reported that Cabinet ministers said privately that the address "sounded like a preparatory speech for an attack".

The speech coincided with reports that Israel's Cabinet is arranged eight to six in favour of a pre-emptive strike on Iran, even without Washington's open support. It is a shift that could prove decisive in swaying Mr Netanyahu's decision on whether to defy international calls for restraint to allow time for sanctions to work.

Linking recent rocket attacks on Israel by Gaza-based militants, Mr Netanyahu said he could not tolerate a situation where terrorist groups are backed by a nuclear power.

"I hope that the whole world today understands that the terrorist organisations in Gaza – Hamas and Islamic Jihad – and also Hezbollah in Lebanon, are sheltered by the Iranian umbrella," he said. "Can you imagine what would happen if that umbrella was nuclear?"

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