(Reuters) – 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 U.S.-led action against Tehran would be successful.

For as long as anyone can remember, Israel has been telling anyone who will listen (still a surprisingly large number, considering how wrong they’ve been) that Iran is around the corner from a nuclear weapons capability.

Justin Elliott was all over this ridiculousness in his excellent Salon article. And it came up at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies conference that I covered for LobeLog and Foreign Policy’s Middle East Channel.

At that conference, neoconservative Washington Times journalist Eli Lake had the best question of the whole two and a half days, on this very subject:

QUESTION: Thank you. This is a question for General Amidror.

Could you comment on why it seems Israeli estimates of the Iranian program have been one to two years away for about 10 years now?

Does this reflect the failure of your analysts or the success of your saboteurs?

Amirdror, ever the diplomatic general, answered “both.”

Back to Yaalon’s latest prediction. Reuters puts Israel’s Deputy PM’s views in context:

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.

All the prognosticating makes me want to take odds. But I’m afraid Yaalon might get the wrong idea if I asked, “Who wants to take this action?”