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Terrorism & Security

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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And Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon called on the United Nations Security Council's permanent members and Germany, known collectively as the P5+1, to declare that talks to negotiate an end to Iran's uranium enrichment "have failed," reports The New York Times. Such a declaration will make “clear that all options are on the table,” including a military strike, he said. 

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But despite the common alarm in the Israeli media over the perceived Iranian threat, it isn't clear that any real event or new information has precipitated the recent flurry of articles. In an op-ed for Israeli newspaper Maariv (and translated from Hebrew by Al-Monitor), Ben Caspit writes that "You can all relax – in the last two weeks, nothing new has happened with regard to an attack on Iran. The cabinet hasn’t convened, the defense minister hasn’t summoned the IDF general staff and no new information has been received. Everything that is known today was known two months ago."

Ynet News reports that Netanyahu's predecessor, Ehud Olmert, accused Israeli government officials of "stirring up overblown drama."

During a meeting with students at Ono Academic College, Olmert said that "the current situation does not require Israeli military action – now or in the near future."

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Referring to the public discussion surrounding a potential military strike in Iran, the former PM admitted that he was very worried by recent newspaper headlines. "This issue inflicts massive public damage to Israel. I live among my people; I hear and see the anxiety on the faces of the citizens. This does not contribute anything to our ability to deal with the Iranian threat. (On the contrary) It only makes it harder."

The Associated Press adds that "All of Israel's recently retired security chiefs oppose an attack, and several have come out swinging against Barak and Netanyahu personally. It's a shocking public rift between the political and defense establishments."  Some experts speculate that it is the military's distrust of Netanyahu that has spurred the prime minister to take his case to the public in an effort to build up a bulwark of support for his policy on Iran.

"They're doing it because they want partners to the decision, because they understand it's a very dangerous risk," he said. But he added that the discussion may serve the public good: "You have a situation that is so complicated and so dangerous, that in a democratic society, you might need a debate over whether to do it because so much hangs in the balance."

But Netanyahu doesn't appear to have much support in the media either, despite the flurry of headlines this weekend.  Haaretz writes that "during the past week alone, Netanyahu personally called two writers – one Israeli and the other American – and praised them for the articles they wrote on the Iranian issue."  Haaretz reporter Barak Ravid writes:

Other than his “home newspaper,” Yisrael Hayom, most of the media in Israel, Europe and the United States have expressed their opposition to an attack on Iran. In such an atmosphere, it’s no wonder that Netanyahu regards any article that doesn’t totally rule out a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran as precious and even makes a point of expressing his satisfaction to the writer.

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