JERUSALEM  - Israel is prepared for a 30-day war on multiple fronts should it decide to strike Iran, and is “ready as never before” for such a clash, the outgoing home front defence minister said Wednesday.

In an interview with the Maariv newspaper, Matan Vilnai said Israel was ready to face the consequences of a clash with Iran that could be sparked if the Jewish state decides to launch a strike against Tehran’s nuclear programme.

But he warned that any military engagement should be weighed carefully, and cautioned that Israel should “always coordinate” with the United States.

“The assessments are for a war that will last 30 days on a number of fronts,” he said, repeating the predictions of other senior Israeli officials that the Jewish state would suffer around 500 deaths in such a clash.

“It could be that there will be less fatalities, but it could be there will be more, that is the scenario that we are preparing for according to the best experts.” Speculation has risen in recent weeks about the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear programme, which the Jewish state and much of the international community believes masks a weapons drive. Tehran vehemently denies those accusations, saying the programme is for peaceful energy and medical purposes. As the speculation grows, observers in Israel have raised concern about the country’s preparedness for war. But Vilnai brushed aside such concerns, saying there was “no reason for hysteria.” “I can say in the most authoritative manner that the home front is ready as never before in the country’s history,” he said.

Vilnai declined to say whether he thought Israel should take military action against Iran, but warned any such decision required serious consideration. “The only question is if a clash is necessary. War is something that is better to postpone and weigh carefully,” he said, adding that he thought the Jewish state should coordinate its military activity with Washington.

Meanwhile, Israel has not yet decided whether to strike Iran over its suspect nuclear program, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday, as Tehran dismissed the threat of an imminent attack.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak in recent days had stiffened their rhetoric on Iran, suggesting they were thinking more seriously of military action against Tehran’s nuclear facilities.

When asked about the issue at a press conference, Panetta offered reassurances, echoing the White House line that there is still time to negotiate a solution to the nuclear showdown.