JERUSALEM The debate over an Israeli strike on Irans nuclear facilities has heated up in recent weeks.
Here are some of the debates most prominent figures.
Position and credentials: Prime minister of Israel and the most important person in the decision on whether to strike Iran. A security hawk, Netanyahu has made combating Irans alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons the defining issue of his tenure.
Position on a strike: Experts have written pages upon pages about Netanyahus thinking regarding a strike ever since he took office in 2009.
While his frequent warnings and references to the Holocaust have made many analysts consider him more supportive than other officials of a strike, several experts have floated the possibility that he is bluffing in an attempt to spur the international community to stand up to Iran and have the Islamic Republic stand down from its nuclear aspirations.
I think its important to do everything in our power to prevent the ayatollahs from possessing the capability. We have to be honest and say that all the sanctions and diplomacy so far have not set back the Iranian program by one iota. And thats why I believe that we need a strong and credible military threat, coupled with the sanctions, to have a chance to change that situation statement at July 29 meeting with Romney
Influence: As the head of Israels government, Netanyahu is the most important person in this debate. Together with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, he will make the decision on whether to strike Iran.
Regardless of whether Israel strikes, Netanyaus focus on the issue has raised its profile in the international arena.
Position and credentials: Israels defense minister. He also served as prime minister from 1999 to 2001, and as head of the Israel Defense Forces from 1991 to 1995. He is the second most important figure in the internal Israeli debate after Netanyahu.
Position on an attack: Until this week, Baraks position appeared to be supportive of a potential strike. But in a Sept. 6 statement, he hinted according to Haaretz that the buildup of American forces in the Persian Gulf may obviate the need for a unilateral Israeli strike.
Lately, Barak also has focused his statements on Irans zone of immunity, the point when Irans nuclear program becomes impenetrable. At the end of July, he told CNN that the US and Israel were on the same page on Iran.
Defining quote: Israel reserves the right to make sovereign decisions, and the US respects that. However, theres no mistaking the impressive scope of American preparations to deal with the Iranian challenge on every plane at a Sept. 6 meeting of his Independence Party, as quoted in Haaretz .
Influence: As the head of Israels security establishment, Barak is at the center of this debate and will play a key role in the decision. As the former head of Israels Labor Party he was to Netanyahus left, but since splitting from Labor in 2011, Barak faced an uncertain political future.
Position and credentials: Led the Mossad from 2002 to 2011. As the head of Israels foreign intelligence service, Dagan focused on disrupting Irans nuclear program the Mossad was credited with assassinating Iranian scientists and launching cyber attacks on Irans nuclear facilities.
Position on an attack: Opposed. After leaving the Mossad, Dagan spoke out publicly against a strike, calling it a stupid idea. He has made comments in the same vein this year, and has become one of the most prominent Israeli opponents of a strike.
Defining quote: An Israeli bombing would lead to a regional war and solve the internal problems of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It would galvanize Iranian society behind the leadership and create unity around the nuclear issue quoted in the Sept. 3 issue of The New Yorker.
Influence: Dagan draws tremendous respect for his military career, and his is not a lone voice. Former high-level officials who served alongside him also oppose a strike. His opinion, however, means only so much now that he is out of the prime ministers inner circle.
Position and credentials: Head of the Shin Bet, Israels domestic intelligence agency, from 2005 to 2011. While he didnt speak out against a strike until last April, Dagan had claimed that Diskin also opposed an attack while in office.
Position on an attack: Opposed. In his first public comments on the issue, at an event in central Israel, he castigated Netanyahu and Barak for misleading the Israeli public.
Defining quote: They make decisions based on messianism . . . Ive seen them up close. Theyre not messiahs, and in a war like this I wouldnt want them at the helm on Netanyahu and Barak, at the forum in central Israel, April 28
Influence: Similar to Dagan. His former position makes him a prominent voice, but as Ephraim Kam, the deputy director of Israels Institute for National Security Studies, told JTA, Yuval Diskin is not a decision-maker with regard to Iran.
Position and credentials: President of Israel, twice a prime minister, and key architect of Israels never-confirmed nuclear weapons program.
Position on an attack: In a statement last month, Peres said that Israel cannot attack Iran without the help of the US. He has since stayed quiet on the issue.
Defining quote: Its clear to us that we cant do this alone . . . its clear to us that we need to go together with America to Israels Channel 2 News, Aug. 15
Influence: Peres has enjoyed high approval ratings as president, a largely ceremonial role. But he was mostly dovish as prime minister, and his comments on Iran drew criticism from some officials, including a Netanyahu aide, who said he overstepped his bounds. Yitzchak Navon, a former president, defended Peres.
Position and credentials: Chief of the IDF General Staff, a key player in the discussion on whether to strike Irans facilities.
Position on an attack: In April, Gantz said that Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would be making an enormous mistake by developing a bomb, and I dont think he will want to go the extra mile.
In July, Gantz was opposed to an attack before the Nov. 6 US elections, although he has reiterated that the IDF is capable of a strike.
Defining quote: I can say that the IDF is ready for any scenario. We will reach any place, any time, and defend this nation at the Presidents Residence, as quoted in the Jerusalem Post, Sept. 2
Influence: As IDF chief, Gantz is a top adviser to Netanyahu, Barak and the Israeli Cabinet. But Israels democracy dictates that elected officials, not military leaders, make the decision on whether to strike.
Efraim Inbar, director of Bar-Ilan Universitys Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, notes that the military was against a withdrawal from Lebanon and a withdrawal from Gaza, which nonetheless took place in 2000 and 2005, respectively.
Position and credentials: Spiritual authority of the Sephardic Orthodox Shas Party, former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel and the preeminent Jewish legal authority in the Sephardic world.
Position on an attack: Reportedly opposed. After reported efforts by Netanyahu to secure Yosefs approval for a potential strike, Reuters and Israels Channel 10 reported that the rabbi remained opposed, which means that his ministers in Netanyahus inner circle are, too. Even so, last month Yosef told his followers to pray on Rosh Hashanah for the destruction of enemies in Iran.
Defining quotation: When we . . . ask G-d to bring an end to our enemies, we should be thinking about Iran, those evil ones who threaten Israel. May the L-rd destroy them Aug. 25, at his weekly Saturday night address, as reported by the Times of Israel.
Influence: Yosef, 91, is not an elected official, but Ephraim of Tel Aviv Universitys Institute for National Security Studies notes that as the preeminent Sephardic sage his words carry weight with much of Israel. More directly, says Inbar, he instructs Shas ministers, who will do as theyre told.
Position and credentials: President of the US, Israels closest ally, whose military could do far greater damage to Irans facilities than could Israels.
Position on an attack: Opposed, for now. Has declared that the US will not allow Iran to possess a nuclear weapon and that no options are off the table in that regard. Views military action as a last resort, however, and wants more time to let diplomatic efforts and economic sanctions halt the nuclear program.
Defining quote: I think both the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognize that when the US says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say to The Atlantics Jeffrey Goldberg, March 2.
Influence: Hard to overstate. How an attack would affect the US-Israel alliance is one of the most discussed issues in this debate, and analysts like Inbar say the decision could hinge on whether Netanyahu and Barak trust Obamas assurances. Inbar is doubtful:
The line that the Americans will take care of it is obviously not something that the Israelis trust.
Position and credentials: Republican nominee for president, more hawkish on Iran than Obama.
Position on an attack: Like Obama, Romney has declared that he will take no options off the table in halting Irans alleged nuclear weapons quest.
During Romneys July visit to Israel, his adviser, Dan Senor, said that Romney would respect a unilateral Israeli strike; Senor clarified later that Romney recognizes Israels right to defend itself.
Defining quote: It would be foolish not to take the leaders of Iran at their word. We have a moral imperative to deny Irans leaders the means to follow through on their malevolent intent at a July 29 speech in Jerusalem.
Influence: Should he be elected, similar to Obamas, but Inbar notes that If he wins the elections he only gets in power at the end of January, and its going to take him a few months to get the right people in place. Were talking about a delay of half a year.
Position and credentials: Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff
Position on an attack: Opposed. Dempsey said that a premature attack could undo international sanctions against Iran and would probably not destroy the nuclear program.
Defining quote: An attack would clearly delay but probably not destroy Irans nuclear program? . . . I dont want to be complicit if they choose to do it in London as reported by the Guardian, Aug. 30.
Influence: Both Kam and Inbar say that Dempseys statements are aimed at dissuading Israel from attacking Iran, and Dempsey said that he communicates frequently with Gantz.