But Israeli officials, once quick to project military menace in the face of what Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has called an "existential threat", are increasingly taking a softer public line on how to meet
It appears that many Israelis have grudgingly decided that
"The last thing
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who suggested a year ago that Israel consider attacking Iran in a mission akin to its 1981 air strike on Iraq's atomic reactor, is now redirecting his rhetoric to calls for crippling Western sanctions on Tehran.
"There's no question that if stiffer measures are needed, it's better that the
The sense of tactical limitation was reinforced, throughout the region and beyond, by last year's inconclusive Israeli war against Hezbollah fighters.
"It is becoming increasingly clear that
"But there are also a growing number of Israelis who think the country will just have to live with a nuclear-armed
Resigning itself to an Iranian bomb could spell a major credibility crisis for Israel, which was founded on the promise of preventing a 'second Holocaust' and, to that end, is believed to have procured the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has fuelled fears of a catastrophic regional conflict by denying the Nazi genocide took place and urging that the Jewish state be "wiped off the map", though
The tension is especially felt in war-wary Europe, which has robust trade ties with
"The possibility of a preventive Israeli strike helps to concentrate European thinking on options for resolving the impending crisis before it would get to that stage," said Mark Fitzpatrick, senior fellow for nuclear non-proliferation at
At least one European leader, French President Jacques Chirac, has already spoken of a nuclear-armed
In a late-January interview that he later tried to retract, Chirac said