An influential Israeli Rabbi has called for prayers for Iran's destruction, a week after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to court his support for a possible attack on a nuclear programme Israel sees as an existential threat.
The sermon by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef added to a flurry of recent rhetoric from Israeli officials that has raised international concern that Israel, widely believed to be the Middle East's only atomic power, might attack Iran's nuclear facilities. "[When] we ask God to 'bring an end to our enemies', we should be thinking about Iran, those evil ones who threaten Israel. May the Lord destroy them," Yosef was quoted as saying by Israeli media yesterday.
Last week, Mr Netanyahu sent his national security adviser to brief the 91-year-old Rabbi on Iran's nuclear activities in what was widely seen as an effort to win his backing for any future military strike, possibly before the US presidential vote in November.
The Rabbi is the spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, a key member of Mr Netanyahu's governing coalition. Mr Netanyahu is frustrated that Western diplomacy to try to force Iran to rein in its programme has been fruitless. He said that Iran, whose leaders have threatened Israel's destruction, had made "accelerated progress towards achieving nuclear weapons".
Rabbi Yosef issued his call in a sermon on Saturday in which he said Iran should be included in a traditional Jewish New Year blessing next month in which God is asked to strike down Israel's enemies.