On Iran, defense secretaries and home defense ministers
Hebrew media review

On Iran, defense secretaries and home defense ministers

The press reports on Leon Panetta’s statement that Israel hasn’t decided to strike Iran, and Avi Dichter’s split from Kadima to join the government

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

MK Avi Dichter (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash90)
MK Avi Dichter (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash90)

All four major Israeli publications feature Tuesday’s statements by senior American defense officials saying that Israel hasn’t decided whether to attack Iran or not, but doesn’t have the capability to knock out its nuclear program anyhow on their front pages.

Yedioth Ahronoth and Maariv lead with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey’s statement that “[Israel] could delay but not destroy Iran’s nuclear capabilities.” Israel Hayom opts for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s quote that “I don’t believe [Israel] made a decision as to whether or not they will go in and attack Iran at this time.” Haaretz hedges its bets and places both in its headline: “Israel is incapable of destroying the Iranian nuclear [program] and has yet to decide to attack.”

Attached to their coverage of the statements, however, each of the dailies has various additions. Maariv cites American sources saying that the notion that Iranian will enter a “zone of immunity” from foreign assault when it fortifies its subterranean nuclear program come December is “a total fabrication.”

The concept of an impending point of no return “is intended to strengthen the doctrine of a unilateral attack by Israel on Iran, which is advanced by the prime minister and defense minister,” Maariv writes.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak uses the term, the source says, in order to point at Israel’s condensed timetable for a unilateral attack, but “it is clear that by December the Iranians will not succeed in protecting all of its nuclear facilities. It will take years to place all of its enrichment operations underground.”

Yedioth Ahronoth writes that although the decision to attack has yet to be made, newly-instated State Comptroller Yosef Shapira is already investigating the possibility of an evaluation of Israel’s war-readiness. Though he did not specifically mention the potential Israeli strike on Iran, “he intends to accelerate his routine supervisory investigations on the subject of home front and military preparedness, and to dedicate particular attention to that possibility.”

Legal sources told the paper that Shapira is aware that he will likely take flak from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Barak for the move, but “he is convinced that it is his role and that this inspection is essential.”

“Netanyahu and Barak thought they chose a relaxed state comptroller,” the source said. “But what they’ve discovered is that he is a comptroller who makes professional decisions for the service of the citizenry even if they are not favorable to the government.”

Israel Hayom reports on Tuesday’s resignation of former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter as a Kadima MK and his appointment to the position of home front defense minister. He wrote in a Facebook post that “personal and party considerations were pushed aside… and I chose to serve the country in the best way I possibly can.”

“The state, and afterwards myself,” he concluded.

Dichter will replace Matan Vilnai, who is set to take over as Israel’s ambassador to China, as home front defense minister, and his Kadima Knesset seat will be assumed by Ahmad Dabah.

With his appointment on Thursday, Dichter turns the cabinet into a group of nine ministers, consisting also of Netanyahu, Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Vice Prime Minister Dan Meridor, and Minister-without-Portfolio Benny Begin.

Israel Hayom reports that the council was previously split 50-50 between those in favor of a strike on Iran (Netanyahu, Barak, Liberman, and Ya’alon) and those against (Steinitz, Yishai, Meridor, and Begin). Dichter’s inclusion would tip the scale in favor of a possible attack on Iran.

Haaretz writes that Dichter’s promotion came as a surprise, but that he had reportedly been disappointed for several months with former Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni and current Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz’s management of the party.

The paper publishes Kadima’s reaction to Dichter’s resignation from the party and defection to the government. It drew a correlation between his being poached by Netanyahu and the potential strike on Iran.

“The citizens of Israel need to worry about the broad significance of the move. This is a direct extension of the warmongering campaign of the prime minister and defense minister, who do not miss an opportunity to profiteer off MKs for the benefit of dangerous and corrupt whims,” the statement said.

In Maariv, Ofer Shelah praises Dichter as a “dedicated soldier” who is sincere in his devotion to the protection of the State of Israel. Unlike Netanyahu and Barak, he says, Dichter “was not an officer in Sayeret Matkal, rather a soldier in a professional position of a more sensitive nature in the unit.”

Shelah dismisses charges that Dichter will fall in lockstep with Netanyahu and Barak on the issue of an attack on Iran. “Dichter is likely to be influenced more than others by the positions of the heads of the security services,” he writes.

In an editorial bashing the possibility of a war with Iran, Aner Shalev writes in Haaretz that “anyone who lengthens his summer vacation abroad may get his life as a gift” because of the supposed likelihood of war breaking out before October. After a tirade accusing Netanyahu and Barak of bringing a second Holocaust upon Israel from which they “will be immune” in their “well-connected shelter,” Shalev says Israel’s one salvation is that Netanyahu is a windbag.

“King Bibi is strong at words but not at actions. From the psychological point of view, despite his meteoric rise, he is still fixated on his previous role as Israeli ambassador to the United Nations. His tenure as prime minister has been padded by a flood of extremely powerful but meaningless words,” he writes.

Don’t go changing, Netanyahu, Shalev implores. “Please, remain what you are — an unreliable public orator — until the end of October.”


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