Friday, May 22, 2009

A Self Fulfilling Bluff ?

The Netanyahu Government has been telling anyone who will listen that Iran's obtaining a nuclear weapon poses and "existential threat" to Israel. That means Iran will more than likely nuke Israel off the map killing millions of its citizens! The Israeli government has the Official Jewish Community parroting this line as well. They are all pressuring the U.S. to bomb Iran, and threatening that if it doesn't Israel will take matters into its own hands.

But how seriously do Israel's leaders really take this threat? Israel's own think tanks don't seem to take it too seriously. Prof. David Menashri, the head of the Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University is quoted as saying: “Iran’s leadership is religiously extremist but calculated and it understands an unconventional attack on Israel is an act of madness that will destroy Iran." And his views of echoed by numerous other Israeli (and foreign) academics.

Does the government believe its own rhetoric? Or is this perhaps just good politics for internal consumption (hawks, after all, always need a scary enemy to rail against), or a "bargaining chip" designed to get more American aid and sympathy, or perhaps a ploy to delay dealing with the Palestinian issue?

While one can never know what someone really thinks, one can judge their actions. In a budget cutting move, the Israeli Defense Department announced yesterday that it was shutting down an intelligence unit charged with maintain links with the Iranian community and political organizations, and following the media in Iran. The unit also runs a two-hour program in Farsi on Israel Radio. This was all done over the vocal objection of the Meir Dagan, head of Israel's foreign intelligence service, the Mossad. (See the Haaretz story here.)

But the governments hysterionics have had one - likely unintended - effect in any case. According to a recent poll (see story in the Forward) one in four Israelis would consider emigrating if Iran did obtain a nuclear weapon! And about 80% live in "serious fear" of such an eventuality.

Way to go Bibi !


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