Israelis Use Twitter, Facebook to Foil an Iran Nuclear Attack Plan?

by Yossi Melman

TEL AVIV – Although the decision on whether to attack Iran’s nuclear sites is ultimately up to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who intends to take a vote in his “security cabinet” of 14 ministers, there are some Israelis who purport to know when an attack might take place.  They don’t know.

yossi melman, spies against armageddon, iran nuclear(See my comments in The New York Times on August 31, and those of others: .)

I have said (at and elsewhere) that an Israeli attack before America’s Election Day is highly unlikely.  President Barack Obama does not want a global crisis before November 6, and the United States is on-the-record with the official opinion that there is still time for diplomacy, sanctions, and other steps short of war.

The latest rumor was spread via Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks by an Israeli lawyer, Eldad Yaniv, and a group of Israelis who could be described as “radical lefties and artsy people.”

Yaniv used to work, for many years, for Ehud Barak, the current defense minister, as Barak’s “hatchet man.”  Yaniv was privy to every political manipulation and gimmick in Barak’s bag of tricks.

In the legal arena, Yaniv has made his living by representing Israeli tycoons who threaten Israeli journalists with lawsuits – so as to block publication of negative information about his clients.

Two years ago, Yaniv was fired by Barak, and the attorney suddenly saw the light – as a self-appointed activist for social justice, against corruption, and perhaps above all leading an anti-Barak campaign.  He and his group have been protesting for weeks near Barak’s posh condominium.

This past week, they convinced themselves – or simply decided to declare – that the big Israeli attack on Iran would take place this weekend.  Using Facebook and other on-line channels that are increasingly popular among Israelis, Yaniv spread rumors about a Saturday strike on Iran.  In so doing, he spread panic among many Israelis.

In truth, the window of opportunity for Israel to act before the U.S. elections on November 6 is extremely narrow.  September is the month of the Jewish High Holidays and vacation.  It would be political suicide for a prime minister to ruin the only comfort that many Israelis feel in an increasingly difficult economic environment.

By the end of September, it is almost certain that Netanyahu will meet with President Obama in the United States.  It would be recklessly absurd for Israel to launch an attack and embarrass Obama before they have their private talks.

In mid-October, United States troops will be visiting Israel.  A joint military exercise, “Austere Challenge,” will find the Americans – almost surely more than a thousand, after recent reductions officially explained by budget cuts – working with Israeli forces on how to respond to incoming missiles.  Although scheduled long ago, even with the reduced size this is seen as both countries working cooperatively to prepare for some kind of future war.  Yes, in the future.

So time is practically running out for Israel to act alone against Iran before America’s Election Day.

A new remark by General Martin Dempsey, America’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, embittered some Israeli officials who do favor attacking Iran – or, at least, want to keep that option “on the table” as a highly credible threat that puts pressure on Iran.

As reported by JTA at and by other sites, Dempsey repeated his oft stated view that an Israeli attack would “clearly delay but probably not destroy Iran’s nuclear program.”

Then he added a phrase that offended some Israelis, who wondered if the highest-ranked general in the American military sees the standby plan for attacking Iran as some kind of criminal enterprise.

“I don’t want to be complicit, if they choose to do it,” said Dempsey.

The fact is that most senior officers in the Israeli military would agree with Dempsey – at least with his opposition to striking targets in Iran at this time.  Military and intelligence experts argue that strengthened international sanctions are working, and more time is needed for them to prove even more effective.

If Israel chooses to attack Iran, there is a reasonable fear and expectation that the retaliation striking Israel would include missiles and a wave of terrorism.  Barak has spoken of the deaths of 500 Israelis in such a war, and other experts contend the death toll would more likely run into the thousands.  Israel’s total population is only around 7 million.

Keeping an eye on the “security cabinet” of 14 ministers, it seems that Netanyahu and Barak have not locked-in a majority to favor approving a strike on Iran.  Out of the 14, only five or six – including Netanyahu and Barak – are in favor.

September 1, 2012

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