JERUSALEM, March 19 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon have ordered the military to continue preparations for a possible strike on Iran's nuclear facilities during 2014, Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported on Wednesday.
According to the report, the Israel Defense Forces allocated up to NIS 12 billion (3.5 billion U.S. dollars), nearly a fifth of its budget this year, for preparations for a possible unilateral strike on Iran, approximately the same amount invested last year.
The figure was presented by top officers who briefed the joint committee in January and February on the military's plans, said the lawmakers who spoke to Ha'aretz on the condition of anonymity.
They said that some of their colleagues who were present at the meetings asked the officers whether it was justified to continue pouring billions into the preparations to strike Iran, citing the interim nuclear agreement inked between Tehran and the six powers last November, and the ongoing negotiations aimed at reaching a final accord.
The officers replied that the military had received a "clear directive" from the political echelon, meaning Netanyahu and Ya' alon, to continue training for a possible independent strike, regardless of the diplomatic efforts to resolve the Iranian issue peacefully, according to the Ha'aretz report.
The second round of nuclear talks was launched in Vienna on Tuesday, with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammed Zarif in attendance.
The army and Netanyahu's office declined Ha'aretz's requests for comments.
The newspaper noted that both Netanyahu and Ya'alon have strongly indicated in recent months that Israel, which views a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat, has not abandoned the military option.
Netanyahu, who has stated repeatedly that Israel must be able to defend itself, has clarified that the Jewish state is not bound by the interim accord, and has issued implicit threats as Iran and the P5+1 are engaged in talks for a permanent agreement.
"I believe that letting Iran enrich uranium would open up the floodgates. We will make sure it does not happen," the prime minister told the annual AIPAC conference in Washington earlier this month.
Ya'alon, in a speech earlier this week at Tel Aviv University, implied that he too was inclined to support an Israeli strike, citing his assessment that the Obama administration, despite its often-stated promise that no option is off the table, will not attack Iran.