Israeli experts believe the point of no return may be only six months away when Iran's nuclear program will have -- if it has not already -- metastasised into a multitude of smaller, difficult-to-trace facilities in deserts and mountains, while its main reactor at Bushehr will be online, and bombing it would send a radioactive cloud over the Gulf nations.
Mr Netanyahu has consistently called Iran the most serious threat that Israel faces. Its President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has called for Israel to be obliterated, and his Revolutionary Guards supply training, money and weapons to both Hezbollah in Lebanon, on Israel's northern border, and to Hamas in the Gaza Strip, whose missiles are believed to be capable of reaching Tel Aviv.
With the Iranian threat at the front of his strategic thinking, Mr Netanyahu has surrounded himself with old comrades from Israel's most prestigious military unit, the Sayeret Matkal, or General Staff Reconnaissance. Mr Netanyahu served in the elite unit in the 1970s under Ehud Barak, who went on to become Israel's most decorated soldier and later prime minister.
When Mr Netanyahu came to power, he made great efforts to recruit his former commander as defence minister. Mr Barak serves with another former leader of the unit, Deputy Prime Minister Moshe "Bogie" Yaalon.
The Israeli Prime Minister has hard-wired his core cabinet with so much military experience for a good reason.
Striking Iran's nuclear facilities will be a huge military and political gamble. Although Russia has delayed supplying Iran with S300 anti-aircraft missiles, which could weaken any Israeli attack, the air force would have to mount one of its largest long-range attacks to have a chance of disabling Iran's nuclear installations.
Earlier this year a report by Anthony Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, warned that "a military strike by Israel against Iranian nuclear facilities is possible . . . (but) would be complex and high-risk and would lack any assurances that the overall mission will have a high success rate". In 2007, in what is often seen as a trial run for an attack on Iran, an Israeli squadron flew undetected through Turkish airspace and over Syria's border to destroy what was thought to be a nuclear facility under construction with Iranian and North Korean support.
In June last year, the air force staged exercises over the Mediterranean, with dozens of fighters, bombers and refuelling tankers flying roughly the same distance as between Israel and Iran. Earlier this year, Israeli jets again carried out a long-range bombing mission, hitting trucks in Sudan that were believed to be bringing Iranian weapons to Hamas via Egypt.
In the immediate term, the threat of a strike has receded. Israel is satisfied that Iran's hostile stance towards the international community has increased the chances of serious, crippling sanctions. Officials noted that for the first time Russia seemed to be serious about isolating Tehran.
But that international front could easily crack, and then Mr Netanyahu would be faced with the decision on whether to order his bombers into action. Iran has already threatened to bomb Israel's cities with its long-range missiles should its nuclear facilities come under attack, but that is only one of its many options.
It could also, in stages, order Hezbollah to launch rockets across the northern border. Or both sides may choose to do nothing. Some analysts believe that Israel might tolerate Iran as a "threshold nuclear state", capable of building a bomb but not testing it.
Iran could well opt for the path chosen by Syria in 2007, if Israel strikes at isolated facilities far from an urban areas, where the only casualties would be technicians and guards. After a similar strike against Syria, neither side admitted what had happened, thereby avoiding a war and saving face.