“Iran is laughing all the way to the bomb,” Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon told a conference at Tel Aviv University on Wednesday.

While Tehran’s officials negotiate with the West to buy time, its centrifuges keep spinning, he said, adding that in the last three months Iran enriched 750 kg of uranium to 3.5%, and another 36 kg to 20% purity. Iran, he said, has more than 6,000 kg of low enriched uranium — enough, potentially, for five bombs.

Speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies conference, Ya’alon added that Iran “is showing no sign whatsoever that it feels threatened, despite economic difficulties.” Sanctions, he said, have yet to “bring the regime to the dilemma: the bomb or survival.”

Ya’alon was speaking after several recently retired high-ranking security officials had weighed in at the conference on the question of whether an Israeli military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities is either a grave mistake or the only option left for the Jewish state.

As a former chief of staff, Ya’alon said he knew “better than anyone” that military force could only be used as a last resort. He stressed that the Iranian threat was not only directed against Israel. “We’re the little Satan,” he said. “America is the big Satan.”

The regime in Iran had “hegemonic aspirations” in the region, he said, accompanied by “a messianic, apocalyptic religious belief… We have to prevent this non-conventional regime from attaining non-conventional capabilities.”

Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan argued that bombing Iranian nuclear sites “might speed up the achievement of the bomb” and “would not stop the project.”

“If we bomb [Iran] we will create a situation in which we resolve all of the political, and some of the economic, problems in Iran, and it will cause the entire Iranian population to unite behind the regime,” he said.

Former Military Intelligence head Amos Yadlin said that “all of those who are saying in public, both in Israel and abroad, that there is no military option, may create a situation in which that is the only option.”

Former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi advocated a three-pronged approach combining economic sanctions, covert operations, and “the option of a credible and ready military strike.” He added that Israel still has time for diplomatic efforts to take effect and hinder Iran.

Former IDF chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi (first from left), former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin (second from right) and Defense Minister Ehud Barak at a ceremony in 2010. (photo credit: IDF Spokesman's Office/Flash90)

Former IDF chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi (first from left), former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin (second from right) and Defense Minister Ehud Barak at a ceremony in 2010. (photo credit: IDF Spokesman's Office/Flash90)

Professor Uzi Arad, a former political adviser to the prime minister, said that “the US possesses the ability, as a world power, to draw its sword against Iran.” He said that the objective of Israel and the international community is not slowing down Iran’s nuclear enrichment but rather halting it altogether.