Tensions have been growing over recent days as reports emerged that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak might be in the process of mobilizing support for an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear sites. But many pundits are viewing the reports with suspicion and suggest that the noise from Netanyahu’s cabinet might have more to do with mobilizing anti-Iran sentiment — and pushing for ever tougher sanctions — in anticipation of next week’s IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear program.
The uptick in bomb-Iran chatter has led ex-Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy to call for Netanyahu’s government to temper their hawkish rhetoric. Ynet.com reports:
“The State of Israel cannot be destroyed,” he told Ynet on Friday. “An attack on Iran could affect not only Israel, but the entire region for 100 years.”
On Thursday, Halevy, speaking at an army boarding school reunion, pushed back at Netnayahu’s claims that Iran poses an “existential threat” to Israel, saying “[Iran is] far from posing an existential threat to Israel.” Halevi, as reported by Ynet, added that domestic radicalization “poses a bigger risk than Ahmadinejad.”
While Halevi’s outspoken comments about rightward tilts in Israel and his warnings against a unilateral attack on Iran have brought scorn from members of Netanyahu’s cabinet — indeed Political-Security Cabinet member and House and Construction Minister Ariel Atias characterized Halevy’s statements as “shocking and inciting and they divide the people of Israel at a time when it needs unity more than ever” — the former intelligence chief is not alone in his opposition to Netanyahu and Barak’s saber rattling.
In May, former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan called an Israeli strike on Iran “the stupidest thing I have ever heard.”
And twelve of the eighteen living former heads of the three Israeli security branches are actively opposing or have spoken out against Netanyahu’s aggressive gestures toward Iran.
CNN’s Barbara Starr reports that the U.S. is increasingly concerned about the possibility of an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. She reports:
The U.S. military and intelligence community in recent weeks have stepped up “watchfulness” of both Iran and Israel, according to the senior U.S. military official and a second military official familiar with the U.S. actions. Asked if the Pentagon was concerned about an attack, the senior military official replied “absolutely.” Both officials declined to be identified because of the extreme sensitivity of the matter.