Israel tests missile, warns ‘military option against Iran is not an empty threat’

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TEL AVIV — Israel has reported the testing of a ballistic missile

The Israeli Defense Ministry, in an unusual announcement, said it
oversaw the testing of a rocket propulsion system on Nov. 2. The ministry
said the test, which consisted of a launch from an Air Force base south of
Tel Aviv, had been scheduled “a long time ago.”

“Israel today carried out the test of a rocket propulsion system from
the Palmachim base,” the ministry said.

The smoke trail of a missile test-fired by the Israeli Army as seen from the central Israeli town of Yavne on Nov. 2 . /AP/Ilan Assayag

In May, outgoing Mossad director Meir Dagan warned that Netanyahu was preparing for war with Iran. Dagan, heavily criticized by Barak and
other ministers, said Iran could retaliate with massive missile strikes that could continue for months.

“Those who placed Iran in the forefront were the prime minister and defense minister,” Dagan told an audience in Tel Aviv on late Nov. 2. “They
said everything is open and were considering a military option.”

But officials said most of the Cabinet has rejected an Israeli strike on Iran. They said any operation against Iran should be led by the United States without direct Israeli intervention.

“The military option [against Iran] is not an empty threat, but Israel
should not jump to lead it,” Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe
Ya’alon, a former chief of staff, said. “The whole thing should be lead by
the United States, and as a last resort.”

[On Nov. 2, the British daily, Guardian, reported that London was
preparing for a joint attack with the United States on Iran’s nuclear
facilities. The newspaper said the British Defence Ministry assessed that
Washington could decide to advance plans to attack key Iranian facilities
amid Teheran’s preparation of a new site near Qom.]

The ministry did not identify the weapon, but Israel state radio said
the launch was that of a ballistic missile. Western diplomats who monitored
the test said the launch appeared to be that of the Jericho-3 missile,
capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

“This is an impressive technological achievement and an important step
in Israel’s rocket and space progress,” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak
said. “The successful experiment proves again that the engineers,
technicians and staff of the Israeli defense industries are of the highest

The Israeli missile launch took place amid Israeli government
discussions of Iran’s progress in its nuclear weapons program. Israel’s
media have reported that Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were
urging their colleagues to support an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities in
coordination with the United States. Barak, who spent the last few weeks
briefing prominent journalists on the threat from Teheran, had long been
regarded as an opponent of any Israeli strike on Iran.

“He [Barak] is playing this card to manipulate the prime minister and
his advisors, thus justifying his role in the government,” a senior official
told the Israeli news website Ynet. “Without the Iranian issue, there is no
justification for him to be in the government.”

The Israel Air Force has also intensified exercises to improve
long-range strike capabilities. In mid-October, the air force conducted an
exercise based in Italy that included the participation of several NATO
members, including Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.

“The advantage here is that we can fly in a very large area, much larger
than we can in Israel,” an Israel Air Force pilot, identified only as Lt.
Col. Yiftah, said. “There were complicated flights with numerous planes.”