Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Haaretz: Netanyahu and Barak try to get majority in the cabinet for attack on Iran

Netanyahu and Barak (Photo Haaretz)

(See for more alarming news update below).

Till now I did not pay too much attention to the news coming from Israel that Israel was considering to attack Iran. Neither was I too much impressed by the commotion that was sparked by journalist Nahum Barnea's column in Yedioth Ahronoth last Friday,  in which he warned that the matter was serious and that Israel indeed was on the brink of attacking. It would not have been the first time some columnist ringed alarm bells in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem before there was in fact a real danger. I must confess, though, that a stern warning by former head of the Mossad, Meir Dagan, this summer, that Israel's leaders in fact had been considering to bomb Iranian nuclear sites and that he, Dagan had not succeeded in convincing them that this was too dangerous an option, did ring some bells. 
But by now the danger seems real enough. Haaretz today reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are trying to muster a majority in the cabinet in favor of military action against Iran. Haaretz quotes an official, who says there is a 'small advantage' in the cabinet for the opponents of such an attack, but that Netanyahu and Barak recently persuaded Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who previously objected, to support such a move.
According to Haaretz leading ministers were publicly dropping hints on Tuesday that Israeli could attack Iran, although a member of the forum of eight senior ministers said no such decision had been taken.It seems that a new report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is going tro play a key role. The report, which is due to be released on November 8, and of which the contents clearly have been leaked beforehand to Israel, seems to indicate that Iran is going ahead with its nuclear program. Intelligence services now say it will take Iran two or three years to get the bomb once it decides to have one. Something something it has not yet decided to do, though. 

UPDATE  Thursday The same day Haaretz revealed the story of Netanyahu and Barak trying to draw the rest of the cabinet into their camp, Haartez also carried stories of the Israeli airforce holding exercices concerning the performance of long range attacks, as well as the test-firing of a ballistic missile. Quite a coincidence! To complete the picture on Thursday Haaretz also reported about a drill of the medical and civil defense agencies in which a rocket attack on Central-Israel was simulated. How many more indications wqould one like to see about what is being cooked over there?
 Here they are, the stories:
1) While the media and political sphere is abuzz with news on a potential attack on Iran's nuclear development facilities, the Israel Air Force continues conducting comprehensive drills on long-range attacks.
The last drill of this sort took place last week at the NATO base in Italy, in which six different types of air force squadrons participated. The drill was widely covered on websites around the world that specialize in aviation.

2) Israel test-fired a ballistic missile on Wednesday, at the Palmahim Israel Defense Forces base in central Israel. The test was part of an examination of a new missile currently being developed by the defense establishment.The missile left behind a fire trail that could be seen throughout central Israel. 
Smoke of the test-fired missile (Haaretz)
 A Defense Ministry official declined to comment on the type of rocket tested. Israel successfully test-fired a two-stage, long-range ballistic missile in 2008.

3) Sirens sounded throughout central Israel on Thursday as part of a Home Front Command drill simulating a rocket attack on civilian infrastructure. The drill comes against the backdrop of a fiery debate in Israel about a possible attack on Iran.
As part of Thursday's Israel Defense Forces drill, sirens went off around central Israel at 10:05 A.M for 90 seconds. Moreover, evacuation and absorption centers were opened in the central Israeli city of Holon and temporary centers in Holon and Bat Yam opened in order to hand out gas masks.

Netanyahu did not rule out the possibility of the need for a military action on Iran this week. During his Knesset address on Monday, Netanyahu warned of Iran's increased power and influence. 'One of those regional powers is Iran, which is continuing its efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. A nuclear Iran would constitute a grave threat to the Middle East and the entire world, and of course it is a direct and grave threat on us,' he said.
From Haaretz' reporting we learn that divisions still exist in the ranks of the Israeli cabinet. Haaretz quotes Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon as saying that he prefers an American military attack on Iran to an Israeli one, while Interior Minister Eli Yishai has not made his mind up yet.In a recent speech he said to have sleepless nights if he thinks of the possible Iranian counter-attack with missiles that might reuslt from an Isareli attack. Also Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Dan Meridor said he supports an American move. In an interview to the Walla! website some two weeks ago Meridor said "It's clear to all that a nuclear Iran is a grave danger and the whole world, led by the United States, must make constant efforts to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The Iranians already have more than four tons of 3-4 percent enriched uranium and 70 kgs. of 20 percent enriched uranium. It's clear to us they are continuing to make missiles. Iran's nuclearization is not only a threat to Israel but to several other Western states, and the international interest must unite here."
Dagan: warning (Haaretz)
 Ex-Mossad boss Dagan, in his warning in summer (which by the way was highly unusual as former intelligence bosses hardly ever speak openly about the knowledge they acquired in their former job), said that the possibility of a future Israel Air Force attack on Iranian nuclear facilities was 'the stupidest thing I have ever heard' and that 'if anyone seriously considers a strike he needs to understand that he's dragging Israel into a regional war that it would not know how to get out of. The security challenge would become unbearable.' Dagan said that he in vain tried to convince Israel's leaders to drop the idea altogether in light of the riks.
Defence Minister Barak seemed to refer to these remarks when he said  a few days ago that he did not rule out the possibility that Israel would launch a military attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. 'I object to intimidation and saying Israel could be destroyed by Iran,' he said. 'We're not hiding our thoughts. However there are issues we don't discuss in public ... We have to act in every way possible and no options should be taken off the table ...'

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