Israeli leaders clash over attack on Iran nuclear sites
AN UNPRECEDENTED war of words has broken out among the Israeli leadership after comments by President Shimon Peres that Israel cannot strike Iran on its own.
The comments by Mr Peres, in a series of television interviews, were in direct contradiction to the position of prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and defence minister Ehud Barak, who, according to Israeli media reports, favour a unilateral attack on Iranian nuclear facilities ahead of the US election in November.
“I have no doubt that should Iran obtain nuclear weapons it would be a grave threat, and that we must treat this matter very seriously,” Mr Peres said, adding: “It is clear that we cannot do this single-handedly and that we must co-ordinate with America.”
Mr Peres, who celebrated his 89th birthday this week, added that he did not believe Israel would launch an attack on Iran before the November election.
Officials close to Mr Netanyahu said the prime minister was “angry and disappointed” over Mr Peres’s remarks, adding that the president had overstepped the boundaries of his authority because the role of an Israeli president is supposed to be largely ceremonial.
The officials claimed Mr Peres had been wrong on three key security issues in the past: when he opposed former prime minister Menachem Begin’s decision to destroy the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981; when he supported the Oslo peace accords with the Palestinians, and when he backed Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005.
Ministers accused Mr Peres of undermining the legitimacy of the political echelon and compromising Israel’s manoeuvrability on the world stage. Mr Barak said Israel must make a decision now on whether to attack Iran, arguing that dealing with a nuclear Iran in the future would be far more dangerous and expensive.
Addressing the Knesset parliament, Mr Barak admitted there were differences of opinion on whether Israel should act unilaterally to prevent Tehran acquiring a nuclear bomb, but stressed the government was weighing all options. “In all the wars and peacemaking [efforts] in Israel’s history, there is no issue that has been dealt with as deeply as the issue of Iran has.”
Opposition leader Shaul Mofaz, head of the centrist Kadima party, accused Mr Netanyahu of pushing for a military attack for the sake of political survival.
“Netanyahu is trying to create a panic and scare us, and the truth is that we are scared – scared of his lack of judgment, scared that he is being led and not leading, but most of all, we’re scared that he is executing a policy that is both dangerous and irresponsible,” he said.
More than 400 Israelis have signed an online petition calling on Israel air force pilots to refuse to obey any orders to bomb Iran.
The petition termed a possible Israeli strike as a “highly mistaken gamble” that would only delay and not stop Iran’s nuclear programme, at “an exorbitant price” for Israel.