JERUSALEM— As 2012 drew to a close, Israeli political analysts predicted that tensions between Israel and Iran over its reported nuclear weapons program are likely to rise.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in yearend remarks, reiterated the risks he sees if Iran enriches enough uranium to build a nuclear bomb.
"I have to tell you my assessment has not changed. Iran is two-and-a-half months closer to crossing this line and there is no doubt that this will be a major challenge that will have to be addressed next year," said Netanyahu.
Israel on standby
He said Israel is prepared to attack Iranian nuclear installations and do it without U.S. support if necessary. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful uses and if attacked, it will retaliate.
Iranian President Mahmood Ahmadinejad said he is unfazed by Israeli rhetoric.
"Although we are fully prepared for it, we don't take them seriously. They say something, we say something back," said Ahmadinejad.
Israeli analyst at Tel Aviv's Institute for National Security Studies [INSS], Shlomo Brom, said Iran's leaders want to avoid a military confrontation. If there is one, though, he said he believes Israel has the military capability to withstand any attack.
"Because of that, I am not so concerned about the military ramifications of an Israeli operation. I am more concerned about the political ramifications," said Brom.
He said potential Iranian retaliation on non-Israeli targets, such as oil shipping routes could drag Western powers into the conflict - and create resentment against Israel among their citizens.
Fellow INSS analyst Ephraim Kam said a nuclear-armed Iran would have major regional repercussions.
“It will make the Middle East less stable. It might induce other countries in the Middle East to join the nuclear race, countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Turkey, or Syria, in the long run, perhaps even Iraq," said Kam.
But Brom said he thinks the security concerns of some Israeli leaders are overblown [exaggerated].
"We'll face security problems, but they will be not as severe as the predictions were. But of course the situation will not be as good as some people in the Western world thought," he said.
Brom said that weakened governance in neighboring states brought on by the Arab uprisings could become as great a security concern for Israel as the confrontation with Iran.