Israel presses US for commitment on Iran action
ISRAEL IS pressing US president Barack Obama to make a definitive statement at the UN general assembly in late September, committing Washington to taking military action to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Israel believes the international talks with Iran on its nuclear programme have failed and, according to local media reports, prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and defence minister Ehud Barak favour a unilateral strike by Israel against Iran’s nuclear facilities ahead of the US presidential election in November.
A clear-cut commitment by President Obama is seen as crucial to preventing, or at least delaying, unilateral action by Israel, which Teheran has warned would lead to regional conflagration.
Efforts are also under way to arrange a meeting between the Israeli and US leaders around the time of the UN gathering.
Israeli public opinion appears divided on the wisdom of an attack on Iran. Although there is a consensus that Teheran should not be allowed acquire a nuclear bomb, many Israelis oppose unilateral action, believing the international community, particularly the US, should confront Iran.
A number of anti-war protests have been held, including outside the home of Mr Barak, but have attracted only a few hundred supporters to date. A group of novelists sent Mr Netanyahu a letter threatening to appeal to the supreme court if any decision to attack Iran is not taken by the full cabinet, as has been the practice in previous decisions to go to war.
Economists have also expressed concern over the potential damage to the economy. Yarom Ariav, a former finance minister director general, estimated that even if only half of the economy was paralysed, a war would cost Israel €9 billion a month.
Israel expects Iran’s close allies in Lebanon, the Shia Hizbullah, to respond to any Israeli attack on Iran with rocket fire. An Israeli general warned Hizbullah not to test Israel, saying the group would be hit hard in a future conflict.