Israel has a contingency plan for a crushing military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. The revelation by a retired Israeli general has set off a political storm.

Former army Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon says Israel has the ability to launch a pre-emptive strike that could set back Iran's nuclear program for years. He said that a single attack would not be sufficient, and that Israel was not limited to air strikes, a possible reference to submarine-fired missiles. Ya'alon who ended his term as army chief last year, said Israel's anti-missile defenses would protect it from an Iranian counterattack.

His remarks set off a political storm, with government officials accusing him of giving away military secrets. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert played down the comments.

Olmert said Israel is part of an international coalition against a nuclear Iran, suggesting that the Jewish state would not act alone.

But Israel has grown increasingly alarmed about Iran's nuclear program since late October, when the Iranian president threatened to "wipe" the Jewish state "off the map." Israeli officials have said repeatedly that the U.S. and U.N. should play the lead role in confronting Iran, but Israel has expressed concern that the international community is moving too slowly.

There is a precedent for a pre-emptive strike, the Israeli air force destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981. Whether or not the former army chief's comments were authorized, Israel has sent a tough message to Iran and the international community, that there is a military option.