PM: Iran strike reports aimed at tying Israel’s hands (JERUSALEM POST) By HERB KEINON 08/13/12)
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu lashed out Sunday at a spate of
newspaper stories reporting an imminent Israeli attack on Iran, the
opposition of the senior defense establishment to such an attack, and
the country’s lack of preparedness for its aftermath, calling them
a “worldwide scandal.”
Netanyahu, responding to a question during a meeting with Likud
ministers over the media frenzy over the past few days regarding the
Islamic Republic, said the reports were designed to “prevent Israel
from independent action.”
The prime minister did not say who he thought was behind the reports.
Netanyahu said that while he only spoke “little and in a measured”
way about Iran, others were creating damage by making “specific
information and operational details” part of the public discussion.
Netanyahu’s close ministerial ally Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz
said the current public discussion – with leaks and details – was
liable to “cause damage to the state’s security.”
Steinitz, speaking to reporters before Sunday’s cabinet meeting, said
that “one day we will have to check ourselves and see how the
situation deteriorated to the point where there is such an exposed
public discussion in the media.”
Last week, for instance, Yediot Aharonot ran a story saying that the
Saudis had threatened to shoot down Israeli planes flying over their
airspace on the way to Iran. The paper printed a diagram of three
possible air routes into Iran.
These and other stories have led to intense speculation as to what is
behind the leaks. Some say the leaks and stories are an attempt by
the government to get the world community to take harsher steps
against Tehran at a time when the current sanctions are not having an
impact on its nuclear program, and the diplomatic negotiations
between Iran and the world powers – the US, Russia, China, France,
Britain and Germany – have essentially broken down.
Strengthening this theory were comments Deputy Foreign Minister Danny
Ayalon made to Israel Radio Sunday.
Ayalon called on the international community to declare the
diplomatic channel with Iran a failure, make clear to the Iranians
that the world’s patience had reached its limit, and that if they
continued their nuclear development “all options are on the table.”
The Iranians need to understand that this does not just mean Israeli
action, but rather action by NATO, the US and other forces, he said.
Ayalon said “several weeks” remained for the sanctions to show that
they were having an impact.
Reflecting a line repeated frequently by government officials,
including Netanyahu, Ayalon said that if the choice was made starker
for the Iranians, they might alter their policies.
Others maintain that the reports are an effort to prepare Israel
psychologically for the possibility of war.
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert said Israel had no reason to launch
a strike against Iran anytime soon.
“There is no reason whatsoever for Israel to act in the near future,
not in the coming weeks and not in the coming months,” said Olmert,
speaking at Ono Academic College. “That is not to say that Iran isn’t
thinking of nonconventional weapons... That said, Israeli [military]
actions are not necessary within the near future.
“The discussions over Iran’s nuclear program do not reflect reality,”
added Olmert. “We do not have to be hysterical. We have to calm down.”
The former prime minister said the relationship with the US was of
paramount importance for Israel, and slammed the Israeli leadership
for driving a wedge between the two. “Pressure coming from Israel is
unhelpful when the United States is two and a half months before an
election,” he said.
“Where will the planes come from [that Israel would use to strike
Iran]? Where will the other tools come from? Will they come from
here, or from somewhere else? Who will help us?” Olmert asked,
hinting at the importance of US support.
Rather than preparing the country psychologically for a possible war,
the current debate was having a demoralizing effect, he said.
Olmert said he did not remember a time where there was a more
dangerous public debate taking place in the country.
“The significance is not only in exposing things, but also in the
mood it creates in Israeli society,” he said.
“This does not contribute anything to our ability to deal with the
threat Iran represents to Israel,” he said. “On the contrary, this
makes it difficult for us, isolates us, burdens us and does not give
us any benefit in dealing with this thing.”
Meanwhile, just as the war talk is reaching a fever pitch in the
media, Netanyahu bade farewell at the weekly cabinet meeting to Home
Front Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i, who is leaving to take up his
post as ambassador to China.
Netanyahu made it clear that he would name a replacement for Vilna’i
in the coming days.
In an apparent reaction to a Yediot Aharonot story Sunday saying that
the home front was woefully unprepared for an attack on Iran and its
aftermath, Netanyahu lauded Vilna’i and said the country had made
huge strides in preparing itself for any contingency.
“Who knows better than you that for decades the government of Israel
did not invest sufficiently in home front defense,” Netanyahu said.
In a reference to the First Gulf War and Saddam Hussein’s Scud
missiles, Netanyahu said, “The missile era began in 1991, with the
Gulf War, and there are those who say even before that. I think
there’s been a very great change during our government’s term in
For example, the prime minister said, a separate ministry to deal
with this issue was set up, meetings every two weeks were held
between him, Vilna’i and other ministers to deal with the issue and
assess the situation, and billions of shekels have been spent on home
front defense, including the Iron Dome, the Arrow and other weapons
He said Israel had developed perhaps the most advanced warning system
in the world. Despite the improvements, however, Netanyahu said it
was impossible to say that there were no problems with home front
defense, “because there always are.”
But, he said, “all of the threats that are currently being directed
against the Israeli home front pale against a particular threat,
different in scope, different in substance. Therefore, I reiterate
that Iran cannot be allowed to have nuclear weapons.” Jerusalem Post
staff contributed to this report.(© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post
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