Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Post #331 - Cooler Heads

Last month (8/12/12), this story was reported by Connie Hackbarth for the Alternative Information Center (AIC) [not to be confused with the American Iranian Council]:

Netanyahu, Barak winning internal Israeli war against Iran

A demonstration outside the Tel Aviv home of Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak is planned for Sunday night under the slogans “No war with Iran! No to playing roulette with the lives of at least 300 Israelis! No to a war for the sake of preserving ministerial positions!” The slogans highlight the cynicism with which the organisers view the current government and its justifications for a possible military attack on Iran.

Will Israel attack Iran? Netanyahu announced last week that he would be the one to decide on any military action against Iran, not Israel’s military establishment. [One is reminded of former president George W. Bush -- self-proclaimed "decider-in-chief" - AP] While in some contexts the thought of a civilian politician deciding about war and not the military apparatus may be comforting, in this case it is not. The vast majority of Israeli military commanders, both past and (assumedly) present oppose an attack on Iran, as do international analysts.

General Israel Ziv (res.) who was the head of the Operations Department in the Israeli army, said in an interview with Israeli radio on Sunday that according to every possible script, an Israeli attack on Iran, even the most successful, will result in a regional war.

However, Israel is apparently not ready for such a war. The newspaper Yedioth conducted a survey of Israeli preparedness for attacks. Netanyahu, when confronted with Yedioth’s evidence that Israel’s home front is woefully prepared for an attack, retorted that the “Iranian danger dwarfs all other threats.” Presumably this includes the threats of faulty bomb shelters and the severe lack of gas masks for Israeli citizens, as detailed by Yedioth.

Moreover, analysts fear not only for the military outcome of a war, but also for its economic impact. Israeli newspapers of late have been connecting local developments and possibilities to an attack on Iran. The economic newspaper Globes, for example, quoted a “senior official” in the Ministry of Finance who stated that “an Israeli attack on Iran would lead to a deep recession in Israel.”

Whether the Israeli government is preparing for more than a war of words with Iran is debatable. But there is an ongoing media campaign preparing public opinion towards a military engagement with Iran.

Ziv claims this is a media campaign led by Netanyahu and Barak, adding that “this is a worrying trend which broadcasts insecurity of the political leadership.”

However, despite experts' opposition to this possible military adventure, the Israeli public  buy into the media messages of Barak and Netanyahu. A public opinion poll released Thursday showed that 40% of Jewish citizens in Israel believe that only a military attack on Iran, whether by Israel or the international community, will halt Iran’s nuclear programme.

To overcome this gap between public and experts’ opinions, Netanyahu demands special powers. In an article entitled “Before Iran: Netanyahu demands unprecedented authorities,” Ynet outlined the unprecedented powers that would be granted to Israel’s prime minister in fields such as dismissing ministerial objections to decisions, delaying decisions reached by majority and holding additional hearings until a desired outcome is achieved.

Israel’s cabinet approved these changes on Sunday morning, although the Jerusalem Post notes that the Likud “scoffed” at the idea these changes were linked in any way to Iran, Ynet title and public opinion notwithstanding.

And preparations for the war go on. During Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Israel’s home front began a nation-wide week-long testing of its new SMS warning system, which can deliver area-specific warnings based on the projection of incoming trajectory of rockets. The system, assuming this week’s tests go well, will be functional in one month.

While a “senior Israeli official” is quoted as saying that Iran has made substantial progress in its nuclear programme of late, and that this intelligence is also known to the United States and Europe. The White House denies any new intelligence in this matter.

Will Netanyahu order a military attack on Iran? Tonight’s demonstrators in Tel Aviv aren’t taking a chance.

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