Striking Iran

The public and the press must be given basic information on their role in the event of an Israeli strike, especially when it comes to the home front.

Don't bomb iran talk sign 390 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Don't bomb iran talk sign 390
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
If the media are to be believed, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are intent on attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities this fall. In the meantime, the cabinet has expanded the prime minister’s powers to push through important ministerial decisions.
The Prime Minister’s Office said this would improve governance, but opposition leaders described the move as undemocratic, saying that critical decisions – such as ordering a strike on Iran – should be taken only after a meaningful debate in the cabinet.
According to Channel 2, Netanyahu and Barak are on the brink of making a decision on Iran because they don’t expect the US to take military action, certainly not before its November elections.
The Obama administration has repeatedly urged Israel to allow more time for international sanctions and talks to halt Iran’s nuclear drive. And despite Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s tough talk on Iran, government officials doubt that if he were elected, he would be able to take any action in his first year as president.
A front-page article in Yediot Aharonot on Friday claimed that “Netanyahu and Barak are determined to attack Iran in the autumn.”
The daily’s two top commentators, Nahum Barnea and Shimon Shiffer, claimed – without revealing their sources – that the aim of an initial Israeli attack on Iran could be to encourage the US to join in. But Barak, they said, was of the opinion that Washington would not go to war, and would do everything in its power to stop one.
Netanyahu – according to Channel 2’s respected diplomatic reporter, Udi Segal – is convinced that the only way to foil the Iranian leadership’s plan to destroy the Jewish people is to thwart its nuclear ambitions, even if only for a few years.
Segal, who also did not divulge his sources, reported that both Netanyahu and Barak fear that in a matter of just a few months, it will be too late to stop Iran. They see the window of opportunity closing, and think we may have reached the moment of truth.
On Sunday, papers ranging from the left-wing Haaretz to the right-wing Israel HaYom cited US and Israeli sources as saying that Iran had significantly escalated its efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Furthermore, both US and Israeli intelligence supported this assessment.
If additional press reports that the country – especially the home front – is not ready for a war are to be believed, we have even more reason to be concerned.
It should be noted that the offices of both Netanyahu and Barak declined comment on these and other press reports of an imminent Israeli attack on Iran. They were, however, probably leaked by sources close to the prime minister and defense minister – or, alternatively, by officials who oppose Israeli military action.
Whatever the case, they should be taken seriously, and the Israeli public must consider the possibility that such action might be forthcoming.
Asked about the latest media reports on Iran by Israel Radio on Sunday, cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser’s answer was oblique. “There is too much attribution of manipulation, which does not exist, to this or that official,” Hauser said.
“There are a great many things that are just as they are, for better or worse.”
Where, then, does that leave us? The prime minister said at the cabinet meeting on Sunday: “The threat to the home front is dwarfed by another threat – Iranian nuclear power.”
This comment reinforced his statement during a tour of the southern border last week that Israel cannot put its fate in anyone else’s hands.
“Israel must and can rely only on itself,” he declared. “No one can perform this role except the IDF and various Israeli security forces, and we will continue to conduct ourselves in this way.”
Netanyahu is undoubtedly correct, but Israel must keep the US – its most important ally – in the loop regarding any action against Iran, without giving up its right to make independent decisions.
Secondly, such fateful decisions should be made in consultation with the cabinet, together with the relevant security officials, behind closed doors, and not by the prime minister and defense minister alone.
Finally, the public and the press must be given basic information on what their role is, in the event of an Israeli strike, especially when it comes to the home front. Otherwise, the media will continue to feed public hysteria, which is certainly not desirable if we are in fact bracing for such a scenario.