Upset by US stance, Israel speaks louder on Iran attack
Unveiling an upgraded short-range missile, Iran says it will build a new air defense site in what appeared to be a bid to show its readiness against any Israeli attack. EPA photoThe Israeli government’s rhetoric concerning a possible attack aimed at Iran’s nuclear program has intensified, with local media reporting that a strike is “closer than ever,” and citing top officials.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “is determined to attack Iran before the U.S. elections,” Israel’s Channel 10 News claimed on Aug. 20, and Israel is now “closer than ever” to a strike designed to thwart Iran’s nuclear drive, according to The Times of Israel.
Channel 10’s military reporter Alon Ben-David said “from the prime minister’s point of view, the time for action is getting ever closer. … It appears that we are getting closer than ever.”
Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are advocating for an attack in the upcoming fall, according to the Israeli Ynetnews website. A report from Yedioth Ahronoth on Aug. 17 referred to Netanyahu’s certainty that U.S. President Barack Obama will not stop Iran’s nuclear development in time.
Opposition to attack
There is considerable opposition to an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, with President Shimon Peres, the army’s chief of General Staff and top generals, the intelligence community and opposition leader Shaul Mofaz all lined up against Israeli action at this stage, according to Channel 10 News’ report.
“It’s clear to us that we can’t do it alone,” Peres told Israel’s Channel Two television on Aug. 16, according to the Daily Beast website. “We can only delay [Iran’s progress]. Thus it’s clear to us that we need to go together with America. […] Israel should rely on itself, but that doesn’t mean we should give up our friends.” Several Israeli newspapers called the Peres interview a bombshell and one opinion writer said it would force Netanyahu to rethink his Iran strategy.
The U.S. has not ruled out military action against Iran but says the priority of world powers remains the use of diplomacy and sanctions to rein in its nuclear activity.
Meanwhile, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon has called on the international community to declare the diplomatic channel a failure in mitigating Iran’s development of its nuclear program, Israel Radio reported on Aug. 12.
Netanyahu and Barak believe Obama would have no choice but to back an Israeli attack before the U.S. presidential elections in November, according to Ben-David, who said he “doubt[s] Obama could say anything that would convince Netanyahu to delay a possible attack.” Barak admits it is clear that Iran will respond to an attack on its nuclear facilities, Yedioth Ahronoth wrote. Still, he further argues that Israel “will not be destroyed.”
The Israeli government is not only discussing U.S. backing for a possible strike on Iran, but is also seeking internal support. Most recently as part of that effort Netanyahu sent an aide to meet with Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of the ultra-orthodox party Shas, to win his backing for an attack on Iran, Agence France-Presse reported.