TEHRAN, Iran – Israel’s existence is an “insult to all humanity,” Iran’s president said Friday in one of his sharpest attacks yet against the Jewish state, as Israel openly debates whether to attack Iran over its nuclear program.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said confronting Israel is an effort to “protect the dignity of all human beings.”

“The existence of the Zionist regime is an insult to all humanity,” Ahmadinejad said.

Ahmadinejad was addressing worshippers at Tehran University after nationwide pro-Palestinian rallies, an annual event marking Quds (Jerusalem) Day on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan.

Israel considers Iran an existential threat because of its nuclear and missile programs, support for radical anti-Israel groups on its borders and repeated references by Iranian leaders to Israel’s destruction.

Iran has denied allegations that it is seeking to build nuclear weapons, saying its nuclear program is peaceful and aimed at producing electricity and radioisotopes used to treat cancer patients.

Israel has been carrying on an increasingly public debate about whether to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. Israel’s official position is to favor diplomatic and economic measures to persuade Iran to halt its uranium enrichment program, but Israel insists that Iran must not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons.

Israeli leaders say “all options are on the table,” a clear reference to a military strike, if they determine that other measures have failed.