Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has raised the specter of war by saying unilateral strikes on Iranian nuclear sites are possible within months.
Speaking with local media for the first time since returning from Washington earlier this week, Netanyahu said "I hope there won't be a war at all, and that the pressure on Iran will succeed," Haaretz daily reports.
However, he said the eleventh hour was soon approaching for Iran to “halt its nuclear program or suffer the consequences.”
“We're not standing with a stopwatch in hand," he said. "It's not a matter of days or weeks, but also not of years. The result must be the removal of the threat of nuclear weapons in Iran's hands."
Netanyahu’s tough talk seems to fly in the face of US President Barack Obama, who told a pro-Israeli lobbying group last Sunday a more measured approach was needed.
“Already, there is too much loose talk of war. Over the last few weeks, such talk has only benefited the Iranian government by driving up the price of oil, which they depend on to fund their nuclear program. For the sake of Israel’s security, America’s security, and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster,” he told the AIPAC Policy Conference.
On Thursday, the defense secretary, Leon Panetta, also said diplomacy had not run its course. While he did not think Israel had made a final decision on a unilateral strike against Iranian nuclear sites, he said their impact would be limited.
"If they decide to do it, there's no question that it would have an impact, but I think it's also clear that if the United States did it we would have a hell of a bigger impact," Panetta said.
With the announcement of big power nuclear talks with Iran on Thursday, it remains to be seen what effect Netanyahu’s intensified rhetoric will have on the possibility of a diplomatic breakthrough.