Israel's Iran intentions debated
A picture taken near Israel coastal Palmachim military base shows the launching of a rocket-propulsion system on November 2.
November 2nd, 2011
10:00 PM ET

Israel's Iran intentions debated

By Kevin Flower

Is Israel on the verge of initiating a military strike against Iran? If you've been reading Israel's newspapers or watching its news broadcast the last few days, you might think so.

The drums already are beating as the International Atomic Energy Agency prepares to release a report next week on Iran's nuclear program, specifically on research and development that Tehran may have carried out that would help it to build a nuclear warhead.

In Israel, the debate over how to stop Iran went critical last Friday when Israel's largest newspaper, Yedioth Aronoth, published a report headlined "Atomic Pressure" by renowned columnist Nahum Barnea that suggested Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak both supported an Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear program.

That story was followed up Wednesday by a report in the daily Haaretz newspaper that Netanyahu was lobbying members of his cabinet to support a military strike against Iran despite the various difficulties inherent in such an operation. The paper attributed the information to a senior Israeli official, but did not disclose identity of their source.

The Haaretz story came the same day the Israeli military tested a new rocket propulsion system. The Israeli defense ministry offered few details about the test other than a cryptic statement from Barak calling it "an impressive technological achievement and an important step in Israel's advances in the realms of missiles and space".

The combination of the missile test and the publication of the two reports created heavy local media speculation as to whether Israel was in fact planning some a military operation and elicited withering criticism from two member of Netanyahu's inner cabinet known as the "forum of eight."

"A public debate about this is nothing less than a scandal. I don't think we've ever had anything like it." Deputy Prime Minister and intelligence minister Dan Meridor told the Israeli newspaper Maariv. "The public elected a government to make decisions about things like this in secret. The public's right to know does not include the debate about classified matters like this."

Minister-sans-portfolio Benny Begin told Israeli radio the public debate about Iran had turned "a crazy free-for-all" and criticized former Israeli intelligence officials for speaking too openly about government deliberations on Iran.

The prime minister's office would not comment on the newspaper reports and referred reporters to comments he made about Iran on Monday.

"Regional powers who have control in the Middle East will try to ensure they have greater influence on the new regimes - influence that will not always support us or be of benefit to us, to say the least" Netanyahu told Israeli legislators during the opening session of the Knesset.

"One of these regional forces is Iran, which continues its efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. A nuclear Iran would pose a dire threat on the Middle East and on the entire world. And of course, it poses a grave, direct threat on us too..... We operate and will continue to operate intensely and determinately against those who threaten the security of the State of Israel and its citizens."

At the U.S. State Department, asked to comment on the "bomb Iran" stories coming out of Israel, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland stepped gingerly through the diplomatic minefield.

"We remain committed to Israel's security," Nuland said. "We and Israel share a deep concern about the direction that Iran is taking. We continue to work with Israel, with the international community, to speak clearly with regard to Iran's nuclear obligations."

But Iran expert Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace calls the public discussion of an Israeli military strike against Iran a "parlor game."

"The chances of it happening are slim to none but people still love to speculate about it," he told CNN.

A senior administration official, speaking on background because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue, dismisses the very public wrangling over whether Israel would strike Iran's nuclear program on its own.

"When I see the Israelis yammer on and on about something, I relax. It's when they go silent that I get worried they're about to do something."

Whether or not the Israeli government has moved closer to a military operation against Iran or not, the recent media uproar has succeeded in putting Iran and its nuclear program back in the media spotlight - right where Israel wants it.

CNN's Jill Dougherty and Elise Labott in Washington contributed to this report.

soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Mackage Women

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    November 16, 2019 at 9:15 pm | Reply
  2. Tonet

    Ron no problem I've been to Israel on many oosacicns myself. I have always been impressed with Netanyahu (though not always a supporter of Likud).Steven You touch a great point on the relationship between the American experiment and the Jewish experience. It's truly amazing to reflect on how much of the American Revolution is owed financially and perhaps morally to those Jewish-Americans who financiered the cause. A list of Jefferson's creditors who never had the heart to call in the loans. Insofar as Israel is concerned, a list of who started it is instructive:1947 was a war of annihilation,1956 was self-defense,1967 was both pre-emptive and just against a three-pronged attack by neighboring states,1973 was self-defense (in the extreme),1981 against Iraq was self-defense1982 did more for Southern Lebanon than one could imagine,1991 the Israelis patiently absorbed Scud attacks during the Gulf War,2001 the second infatada was the result of a '99 de-escalation (lesson learned, eh?)2006 was self-defense as Northern Israel continued to be shelled2008 was self-defense as Sderot and other cities were continuously shelled even after the Israelis dismantled settlements,If it was any other nation, Israel would be entirely justified in the use of force. No other nation in the world is pledged to extinction by so many others, and yet Israel is the aggressor when she defends her homes, her citizens, and roots out the terrorists who use Palestinians as human shields?I will grant a good number of things Palestinians by and large want to work with Israel, the Israelis can be heavy handed at times, Hamas and Fatah often confuse their goals, the right to return vs. the right to exist there is nothing clean about the process. But if you do any serious research about the Middle East, there are a few black and whites amidst the greys: (1) the British Mandate really messed things up, (2) the Israelis have the right to exist and this is what happens when you lose wars fellas the settlements have the right to go up, and (3) there are indeed people committed to the obliteration of the Jewish people in Israel and beyond. Until there is a measure of security and peace, Israel will always be on a war footing and Palestinians will continue to lose their lives, property, and freedoms as a function of violence and time.

    April 6, 2012 at 11:28 pm | Reply
  3. STUDSO

    OBOMBUS THE DRONE PRESIDENT. Remote control death PERFECT!!!!

    November 13, 2011 at 6:56 pm | Reply
  4. STUDSO

    World governments are nothing but Criminal Organizations . Funny how not one GOVERNMENT lets their people decide about the bailouts Greece and Italy PMs resign and give other legislators the right but not their people > WHY!!!! Because they wont sell their country to the IMF and BIG banks. OBOMBUS never even considered the people it was ALL ABOUT THE BANKS!!!!!

    November 13, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Reply
  5. Mark Levy

    Israel is becoming the biggest danger for the world security with its threats against Iran. and it is losing diplomatic fights everywhere, because the world knows that Israel is the no1 Danger now.

    Since yesterday:
    Israel=Apartheid

    No western news is talking about this, but do a search on Google with these words: "Russell Tribunal and Israel" and you will see many interesting articles about the Tribunal's court decision in South Africa yesterday.

    Mark Levy, Jew for a Just Peace

    November 8, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Reply
    • Mark Levy Is A Liar

      IV. ADMISSIBILITY

      4.1 As indicated at 3.1 above, the Israeli Government was invited to present its case before
      the Tribunal but chose not to exercise this right and provided no answer to
      correspondence from the RToP.

      November 18, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Reply
      • Luzdeiny

        Really? Corporate history? You are doing a balliirnt job stereotyping yourself Maxie and in calling you a retard I am not resorting to personal attacks, but merely stating a clinical fact. I also love how you are wrapping yourself in your alleged Jewish heritage as an excuse for repeating blood libels against the one, long-standing Democracy in the Middle East that actually has a record of protecting human rights.Here's the problem Maxie, you basically end up in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion lunatic bin the minute you start ranting about Jewish control of US foreign policy. Second, when you start ranting about millions starved to death in Iraq during the sanctions regime imposed by the UN you lose further credit as even America-hating pinko groups like Amnesty International have punched gaping holes in thay baseless assertion and, in any case, to the extent there were deaths they were caused by Saddam Hussein's regime spending Iraq's national treasure on building splendiferous palaces with the UN oil money instead of, you know, feeding its own citizens. Third, if you are going to assert that you know more about Jewish history than I do, perhaps you or your handler should demonstrate proof of that fact. You make a baseless assertion and than do nothing to support it. I have given you the generally accepted narative of what has occured in the land that is now the State of Israel and you have offered nothing that is counter-factual (because you cannot).Anyway, if you really are Jewish and you love your community, you would be doing the gene pool a favor if you self-selected yourself out.I look forward to your next inarticulate rant.

        April 7, 2012 at 12:26 am |
    • Mark Levy Is A Liar

      Since Arabs live in Israel and amongst Israelis, and the opposite is true in surrounding Arab countries, people are hypocrites in calling Israel an appartheid state and turning a blind eye to the fact that Palestinians themselves cause the divide. Where does international "law" dictate that we need to allow our enemies to attack us?

      November 18, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Reply
  6. Pistoya

    The intentions are clear and justified. Death to Iran. Nuclear holocaust is the imperitive. Turn those Mullah loving turban wearing sheiks into glass !

    November 3, 2011 at 9:09 am | Reply

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