IDF sources claim Iran could have full nuclear capabilities by 2009, but of course, others dispute the claim. The problem is not that Iran will have such weapons, apparently, but rather what it might do with them:
But Olmert, speaking at a joint press conference with Prodi, said, "Israel's position is clear: we will never be able to resign ourselves to the possibility that a state threatening the destruction of Israel will have nuclear capabilities.""Iran, through the voice of its president [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, calls almost daily for the destruction of the State of Israel. A country like this cannot, under any circumstances, possess unconventional capabilities, and everything must be done to prevent this," Olmert continued.At the press conference, held at Olmert's Jerusalem residence, Prodi echoed the prime minister, saying "Iran must not develop nuclear military capability. Because Iran is a regional power, it must act responsibly, and give up any nuclear military program."
Does this mean Israel would have no problem if Saudi Arabia or Egypt acquired nuclear weapons? Saudi Arabia is officially still at war with Israel, but they don't call daily for the destruction of Israel, while Egypt has a peace treaty with Israel. Suppose that Iran were to build a sufficiently threatening conventional army and navy, wouldn't that be just as bad as nuclear weapons, or worse? The likelihood that Iran would use nuclear weapons in the vicinity of Jerusalem is much smaller after all, then the likelihood that it might try to attack Israel with proxy guerrilla forces, as it did this summer, or by other means that can be equally destructive.
Aren't we focusing on the wrong aspect of the problem? Iran is a danger to Israel and the region because of what it believes, with or without nuclear weapons. It is not the case that Iran would be dangerous if it acquired nuclear weapons. Rather, Iran wants to acquire nuclear weapons because it is a dangerous pariah state.