Israel is calling for an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council to discuss the Iranian president's call for the destruction of the Jewish state. Mideast tensions have been fanned further by a fresh wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence.
Israel is launching a diplomatic offensive to punish Iran, after its president called for the Jewish state to be "wiped off the map."
"Certainly what Iran has done today in light of its nuclear weapons program requires a firm response by the U.N. Security Council and the U.N. secretary-general," said government spokesman Dore Gold.
Mr. Gold says the international community must take firm action to stop Iran from getting the atom bomb.
"The fact that Iran has had for years a clandestine nuclear weapons program makes the Iranian statements about eliminating Israel all that more serious," he said.
The Iranian threat has revived speculation about whether Israel will launch a preemptive strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. There is a precedent. The Israeli air force destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981.
The rising tensions with Iran come as Israeli aircraft continue to pound Palestinian militant targets in the Gaza Strip. Israel launched a tough offensive against the Islamic Jihad, after the group claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing on Wednesday that killed five Israelis. In the deadliest Israeli raid, four Islamic Jihad militants were killed along with three bystanders.
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat appealed to both sides to uphold the eight-month-old cease-fire.
"To whose interest is [it] to go back to the cycle of violence and counter-violence between Palestinians and Israelis? It serves no interests whatsoever. It's senseless," Saeb Erekat told VOA.
The wave of violence has dashed hopes of reviving the peace process in the wake of Israel's pullout from Gaza last month. In a sign of growing Israeli frustration, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has become so ineffective that he is not a partner for peace.