What's behind the latest Israeli media frenzy on Iran?
Israeli media outlets were buzzing this weekend about the possibility of a preemptive Israeli strike on Iran. Was there a policy change driving the attention?
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Israeli media speculation that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to launch a preemptive attack against Iran kicked into high gear over the weekend. But the frenzy seems to lack any basis in changes on the ground in Iran, and may simply be an effort to win over a skeptical Israeli public.
Israel has been warily eying Iran's nuclear program for many months, even as Western sanctions against Iran continue to bleed it of oil revenues. But over the weekend, speculation in the Israeli media about an imminent Israeli attack on Iran reached a fever pitch. "[I]t was two articles last Friday that kicked off the current storm," reports the Guardian.
Writing in Israel's biggest-selling daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, Nahum Barnea and Simon Shiffer, both respected commentators, said: "Insofar as it depends on [Prime Minister] Binyamin Netanyahu and [Defense Minister] Ehud Barak, an Israeli military strike on the nuclear facilities in Iran will take place in these coming autumn months, before the US elections in November."
Barak is also widely assumed to be the "decision maker", the anonymous key figure whose views were spread over two pages of Haaretz's weekend magazine on Friday. This thinly disguised figure said that time was running out to act against the Iranian nuclear program, and the "immunity zone" – the point when key components of the program are beyond reach in deep bunkers – was approaching.
Time notes that two other Israeli newspapers echoed those sentiments in their own headlines.
Maariv informed us in its banner headline that 37 percent of the Israeli public believes that “If Iran gets the bomb, it might result in a second Holocaust.” And Yisrael Hayom said: “Iran significantly speeds up its progress toward the bomb.” The following day, the latter paper included a headline claiming that, according to Israeli TV, a “Decision by Netanyahu and Barak to strike Iran is almost final.”
Mr. Netanyahu and his cabinet also spoke out strongly on Aug. 12 against the perceived threat of Iran's nuclear program. The Associated Press reports that Netanyahu told his cabinet, "All threats directed at the Israeli home front are dwarfed by another threat, different in its magnitude and substance, and so I have repeated and shall repeat: Iran must not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons."