The United States and its allies have up to three years to curb Iran's nuclear programme, which has been set back by technical difficulties and sanctions, a senior Israeli official said on Wednesday.
Saying Iran remained his government's biggest worry, deputy prime minister Moshe Yaalon did not mention possible unilateral military strikes by Israel, saying he hoped US-led action against Tehran would be successful.
"I believe that this effort will grow, and will include areas beyond sanctions, to convince the Iranian regime that, effectively, it must choose between continuing to seek nuclear capability and surviving," Yaalon said.
"I don't know if it will happen in 2011 or in 2012, but we are talking in terms of the next three years."
Yaalon, a former armed forces chief, noted Iran's uranium enrichment plan had suffered setbacks. Some analysts have seen signs of foreign sabotage in incidents such as the corruption of Iranian computer networks by a virus.
"These difficulties postpone the timeline, of course. Thus we cannot talk about a 'point of no return'. Iran does not currently have the ability to make a nuclear bomb on its own," Yaalon said.
"I hope it won't succeed at all and that the Western world's effort will ultimately deny Iran a nuclear capability."
Yaalon had previously been hawkish on Iran, saying Israel, believed to have region's only nuclear arsenal, should attack Iran rather than see it get the bomb.
Other officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have been tight-lipped about the military option, which would face big tactical and diplomatic hurdles.