´US attempting to sway Israeli public opinion on Iran strike´ (ISRAEL HAYOM) Yoni Hirsch, Eli Leon, Shlomo Cesana, Mati Tuchfeld, Gideon Alon and News Agencies 08/15/12)
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Following comments by U.S. Defense Secretary Panetta and Head of
Joint Chiefs of Staff Dempsey, sources say American officials are
briefing Israeli media against pre-emptive strike • Dichter to join
top ministerial forum to deliberate Iran strike.
Israel suspects that senior figures in the U.S. administration have
been briefing local media outlets in recent weeks against a pre-
emptive Israeli attack on Iran´s nuclear facilities in an attempt to
sway Israeli public opinion, according to reports.
At a joint briefing with General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the
U.S. military´s Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Tuesday, U.S. Defense
Secretary Leon Panetta said that the United States does not believe
Israel has made a decision yet on whether to attack Iran over its
nuclear program. Panetta, who visited Israel two weeks ago, told
reporters at the Pentagon it was important that military action be
the "last resort" and said there was still time for sanctions and
diplomatic pressure to work.
Dempsey, who was in Israel for high-level talks in January, cautioned
that any Israeli strike would not destroy Iran´s nuclear program but
would rather only delay its work. "I may not know about all of their
capabilities but I think that it´s a fair characterization to say
that they could delay but not destroy Iran´s nuclear capabilities,"
Israel Radio reported on Wednesday that Israeli officials regard the
comments as an attempt to influence Israeli public opinion. A senior
security source told the Israeli website Walla! on Wednesday morning
that "this is a blatant and extreme attempt to directly influence the
debate in Israel."
The website also reported that the comments by Dempsey and Panetta
confirm Israeli suspicions that senior U.S. officials have been
briefing the Israeli media against a strike, and have even disclosed
details that were discussed in internal, closed meetings between the
U.S. and Israel.
The source added, "while their comments do reflect the disagreement
[between the U.S. and Israel], it is not right to talk about it so
publicly in the media. Israel has said more than once that all
options are on the table, and we mean it."
Israeli sources also believe that the comments by Dempsey and Panetta
were meant to calm the Iranian side and to facilitate continued
dialogue between Iran and the West.
Israeli media has recently been awash with speculation about a
possible attack. Top-level officials are concerned that time is
running out to stop Iran from achieving nuclear capabilities.
Israel´s envoy to Washington, Michael Oren, told CNN that the window
of opportunity before military action becomes inevitable was "small
and the window is getting smaller." He acknowledged that Israel´s
clock was ticking faster than Washington´s.
Asked about comments by Israeli officials, Panetta said: "I don´t
believe they´ve made a decision as to whether or not they will go in
and attack Iran at this time."
"With regard to the issue of where we´re at from a diplomatic point
of view, the reality is that we still think there is room to continue
to negotiate," Panetta said.
U.S. officials have repeatedly stressed that Washington can do more
damage, if necessary, and vowed that they would not allow Tehran to
obtain a nuclear weapon.
Former Defense Minister MK Benjamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) told Army
Radio that Israel was prepared "down to the last millimeter" to
attack Iran. "The question is whether Israel can allow itself to
attack without any coordination with America," he added. "We need to
take into account that the other side will respond, and that may be a
very painful response."
And Dichter makes nine
Avi Dichter, the outgoing Kadima MK who is poised to become Israel´s
next homefront minister, presented his letter of resignation to
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday. Dichter must step down as
an MK before taking up the ministerial portfolio as his party is now
in the opposition.
Dicther will also join the key ministerial body the Forum of Eight,
making it the Forum of Nine. The body deals with the highest-level of
discussions and deliberations, in particular on issues concerning
security. Channel 2 TV reported Tuesday evening that Dichter cannot
join the regular Cabinet due to regulations that stipulate the
Cabinet cannot comprise more than half the number of coalition
There now appears to be a majority in this inner Cabinet in favor of
a preemptive strike against Iran, as it is widely believe that
Dichter backs the position of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and
Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The forum cannot take Cabinet decisions,
but it is broadly believed that if the forum backs a strike, the rest
of the government will fall in line with the decision.
Iran says Israel wouldn´t dare attack
Iran, meanwhile, dismissed Tuesday the possibility that Israel would
launch an attack against it. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin
Mehmanparast told reporters that the likelihood of an Israeli attack
is slim, and added that Iran is not taking seriously the threat of
“Even if the Israeli government decides to make such a stupid move,
it will not happen and Israel will suffer the consequences,”
Mehmanparast said. “These threats stem from the Zionists’ internal
problems and the social crisis there."
Iranian Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi also dismissed the
threats, saying it was psychological warfare. Iranian news agencies
quoted him as saying that, “Israel definitely doesn´t have what it
takes to endure Iran´s might and will.” He labeled the Israeli
threats “a sign of weakness” by “brainless leaders.”
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