Irresponsible politicians, and press go on rampage
Candidly Speaking: In recent weeks, the ugly side of Israeli public life has been on display with irresponsible politicians, supported by the sensationalist media, engaging in cheap demagoguery in relation to the Iranian nuclear threat.
Iran's Sajil 2 missile Photo: REUTERS
In recent weeks, the ugly side of Israeli public life has been on display with
irresponsible politicians, supported by the sensationalist media, engaging in
cheap demagoguery in relation to the Iranian nuclear threat.
simultaneously, in the course of one week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
announced that “Israel is a malignant cancer” and that “the black stain of
Zionism must be removed,” Ayatollah Khomeini stated that “Israel will disappear
from the map” and a prominent Iranian general proclaimed that “Israel must be
destroyed forever.” In the light of such incitement, to deny that a nuclear Iran
represents an existential threat to Israel is to deny reality.
Assured Deterrence (MAD), which prevented a nuclear conflict between the US and
the Soviet Union during the Cold War, is inapplicable today. A messianic Islamic
leadership convinced that by “nuking” Israel it will expedite the coming of the
Mahdi and obtain heavenly rewards for its adherents is unlikely to be deterred
out of fear that its people would also be incinerated.
While it is on the
front line, this is far from being an exclusively Israeli problem.
nuclear Iran will alter the balance of power in the Middle East with potentially
disastrous implications for global stability, and as US Defense Secretary Leon
Panetta warned, would pose an enormous threat to the US and the rest of the
Netanyahu’s campaign has certainly obliged the United States and
Western countries to confront the nightmare that would ensue should Iran emerge
as the dominant regional nuclear power. But I do not believe that he is simply
bluffing about an independent Israeli strike.
So far, although US
sanctions have impacted on the Iranian economy, with China, India and Japan
continuing to trade, the Iranians seem determined to press on. I avoid adopting
a public position on how I believe Israel should respond because I lack access
to the intelligence to enable an evaluation of Ehud Barak’s “zone of immunity”
or assess the odds of a successful solo Israeli military offensive to destroy or
delay the Iranian bomb.
The decision on the timing or whether or not to
take military action will not be determined by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
alone but by a majority of the security cabinet, which comprises a cross-section
of responsible leaders reflecting the broad political mainstream. I have
confidence in their integrity and ability to make a rational decision on what
they consider will best serve the interests of the nation. It is absurd to
suggest that such policies should be determined by engaging public
We all recognize that a military operation spearheaded by the US
would be far more effective than Israel going it alone. Many of us wish we could
rely on President Barack Obama’s vague undertakings that the US will ensure that
Iran does not become a nuclear power. However, when we review the track record
of third parties who pledged to stand by us in times of need, it would be a
somewhat foolhardy gamble to rely exclusively on broad US undertakings in
relation to such a crucial issue for our future.
Besides, the US hardly
has a great success rate with regard to preventing rogue states like North Korea
from developing weapons of mass destruction. That applies especially to Obama,
who is not renowned for taking tough global military decisions and continues to
defer to the dysfunctional Islamic- and rogue-dominated UN. Nor for that matter
to Mitt Romney, who, if elected, may also hesitate to inaugurate his term with a
major military confrontation which may have severe ramifications for the global
While the negative statements issued by US spokesmen in recent
weeks could be highly sophisticated examples of disinformation, it is more
likely that they reflect the reality that nothing has yet been resolved. Of
course, when Obama meets Netanyahu in the fall, he could persuade him to suspend
independent action by convincing him that a US military option is credible and
committed to a timeline for acting in the absence of any diplomatic breakthrough
with the mullahs.
Failing any progress, our government is now preparing
the Israeli public for the possibility that Israel will be obliged to act
independently. Yet unlike previous occasions when there was little public debate
prior to Israel taking unilateral military action, today we have a surfeit of
politicians afflicted with flapping gums, babbling away, creating confusion and
undermining unity and confidence on the home front.
The most recent
outburst was from President Shimon Peres, who until now had appeared to have set
aside his days as a politician and committed to acting as a responsible
president. Now, the man who sought to undermine Begin for taking out Saddam
Hussein’s nuclear reactor, who predicted a “New Middle East” after the Oslo
Accords and supported the disastrous 2005 unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, is
demanding that Israel not “attack Iran alone.” Such a statement contradicting
government policy is totally beyond the jurisdiction of a president.
hysterical personal attacks on Netanyahu by Opposition Leader Shaul Mofaz were
simply mind-boggling. He ranted that Netanyahu was “playing a dangerous and
irresponsible game with the future of the entire nation.” He accused Netanyahu
of promoting war in order to influence the outcome of the US presidential
elections, asking “why are you putting your hands deep in the American ballot
boxes” and “endangering the future of our children.” So much for a responsible
In a similar vein, discredited former prime minister Ehud Olmert,
the architect of the failed Second Lebanon War, insisted that “Iran is far from
the point of no return in terms of its nuclear project” and expressed “alarm” at
the “great public damage” Netanyahu’s warlike policies were inflicting on
Israel, which “disgusted us.”
Aside from Yisrael Hayom, the Hebrew media
also went overboard. Haaretz, and even more so Yediot Aharonot and the major TV
stations assailed Netanyahu’s “irresponsibility” and even accused him of seeking
to go to war with Iran in order to divert attention from social issues. The
journalists are not privy to intelligence or inside information, yet they run
scare stories on the home front and attempt to create panic. Haaretz even
published an article headlined “Mr. Netanyahu, before you bomb Iran, say goodbye
to everyone you know.”
The hysteria widened, with retired IDF chiefs of
staff and former intelligence heads joining the fray, hinting that the prime
minister would be accountable to a Commission of Inquiry if military operations
There were bizarre demonstrations against military action.
Artists Gila Almagor and Achinoam Nini promoted anti-war petitions. There was
even a seditious petition from 400 academics, including a former head of Tel
Aviv University’s Faculty of Law, calling on pilots to refuse to obey orders to
Yet notwithstanding this hysteria, Israelis remain calm. Some
update their gas masks and check their shelters, but overall life goes on and
there is no panic. Because Israelis today are reasonably confident that our
leaders will decide what is best for the nation and recognize that if necessary
we must confront those who seek our demise.
The writer’s website can be
viewed at www.wordfromjerusalem.com. He may be contacted at