UK's Iran sanctions are a game-changer, says Israel

It's rare to find consensus on anything among Israeli politicians, soldiers and analysts. But on one thing there is now near unanimity: the sanctions against Iran announced in November by UK Chancellor George Osborne could be a "game changer".

Every Israeli to whom I spoke in Jerusalem this week told me the same thing: for the first time, Iran faces powerful sanctions which could have a real impact if the EU follows the UK's lead. By hitting oil exports and the Iranian central bank, an already weak economy could be brought to its knees - quickly.

One senior Israeli military strategist described the sanctions as "equivalent to military action".

Benjamin Netanyahu is known to think that the Iranians are worried, now that serious sanctions have been imposed.

Contrary to the idea that the Israeli PM believes a military strike is inevitable, his belief has always been that tough sanctions, combined with the credible threat of military action if sanctions do not achieve their aim, could force the Iranians to abandon their nuclear programme.

It is often said that other countries in the region share Israel's concern with Iran. But the Palestinians are rarely mentioned in that list. Fatah may be engaged in reconciliation talks with Hamas but party officials are, off the record, rigid in insisting that a commitment to non-violence is a prerequisite for unification. And although there are some Hamas figures who might be prepared to make such a commitment, terror is part of the organisation's DNA.

So there will be no deal. And a Hamas funded by a nuclear Iran would be even more dangerous to Fatah than it is now. No wonder Prime Minister Fayyad shares Israel's fears.

Last updated: 12:14pm, January 12 2012