Israeli buzz on attacking Iran aims to pressure US (AFP) AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE) By Delphine Matthieussent 08/20/12)
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A high-volume public debate in Israel over a possible imminent
military strike on Iran´s nuclear facilities is designed to pressure
Washington to back its ally more firmly, experts say.
Media chatter over Israel´s intentions has become a cacophony, fed
daily by pronouncements from politicians, retired generals, former
security officials and various commentators.
They fill newspaper columns and radio and TV broadcasts with their
opinions for or against a pre-emptive Israeli operation against Iran,
with or without US approval or assistance.
Such talk has been further fuelled by the mass distribution of gas
masks to the public, by tests of an SMS attack warning system and by
speculation about possible Israeli casualty numbers in the event of
an Iranian counter-attack.
Defence Minister Ehud Barak and other senior officials have estimated
a conflict could last 30 days and claim 500 Israeli lives.
"There is an orchestrated hysteria, deliberately timed, to put the
country in a state of anxiety, artificial or not," former military
intelligence chief Uri Saguy wrote this weekend in the left-leaning
Apart from preparing public opinion for the consequences of a
conflict, the surge in public statements aims to push US President
Barack Obama to take a more hawkish stance on Iran, said Denis
Charbit, professor of political science at Israel´s Open University.
"The use of this public diplomacy on the part of Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu and his defence minister aims to obtain a clearer
commitment by the United States to attack if Iran continues its
nuclear programme, or at least to give Israel the green light to do
so," he told AFP.
Obama has said Washington will stop Iran from acquiring nuclear
weapons, but has spoken of military action as a last resort that
should be preceded by diplomacy and economic sanctions. Netanyahu on
the other hand has aggressively pushed the idea of a pre-emptive
There is concern in Washington that a unilateral Israeli strike may
not destroy Iran´s underground nuclear facilities and could spark
Iranian retaliation worldwide, dragging the United States into
another war in the Middle East.
"Statements from the White House are considered too vague by Israeli
leaders," Charbit said. "By publicly raising the possibility of an
imminent Israeli military operation, they want to push the Americans
into showing their hand."
The Israeli wish for a firmer US commitment was expressed by another
former head of military intelligence, Amos Yadlin, in an opinion
piece published at the weekend in the Washington Post.
"The US president should visit Israel and tell its leadership -- and,
more important, its people -- that preventing a nuclear Iran is a US
interest, and if we have to resort to military action, we will," he
wrote, suggesting that Obama address Israel´s parliament.
"This message, delivered by the president of the United States to the
Israeli Knesset, would be far more effective than US officials´
attempts to convey the same sentiment behind closed doors," said
Yadlin, who is in regular contact with Netanyahu and senior Israeli
defence and security officials.
But Eytan Gilboa, an expert on US-Israel relations at Bar-Ilan
University near Tel Aviv, warned that the Israeli strategy of putting
pressure on the White House could be counter-productive, especially
with Obama up for re-election in November.
"The period before the presidential election in the United States is
inopportune," he said.
"The series of leaks and declarations in the Israeli media has a
negative impact by exposing a high level of mutual mistrust and a
lack of coordination between Israel and the United States."
Gilboa was however cautiously optimistic about a possible Netanyahu-
Obama meeting on the sidelines of next month´s UN General Assembly in
New York, although Netanyahu´s office has so far not confirmed he
"The meeting might provide a good opportunity to restore trust and
understanding between the two leaders regarding the policy towards
Iran," he said. (Copyright © 2012 Agence France Presse. 08/20/12)
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