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First it was the Shalit deal. Then it was about a week of rocket fire from Gaza, seasoned with the Palestinians’ UNESCO triumph. Now Israel is in a tizzy again—about attacking Iran.
On November 8 the International Atomic Energy Agency is set to release a report on Iran’s nuclear program that is expected to be the most damning ever, saying the program goes well beyond the civilian sphere. It wasn’t that, though—at least not directly—that triggered the uproar in Israel.
What got it going was a front-page column on Friday by veteran, left-of-center, anti-Netanyahu columnist Nahum Barnea in the fiercely anti-Netanyahu daily Yediot Aharonot. Called “Atomic Pressure,” it claimed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak had already decided, just the two of them, on an Israeli move against Iran.
All hell broke loose. The issue of the Iranian nuclear threat to Israel—usually inanely relegated to the margins by the media, often in favor of saucy scandals or outrage over the price of cottage cheese and gasoline—suddenly sprang forth on every news and opinion page of the Hebrew press. Now every two-bit journalist was pronouncing on what is actually the paramount, existential issue facing Israel, dwarfing all others even though many of them are not exactly trivial.
Some public figures reacted with fury, claiming Yediot and other anti-Netanyahu elements of the media were deliberately stirring up the storm to turn the public against a strike on Iran—or just to discomfit Netanyahu (they also don’t much like Barak, of left-of-center background but now close to the prime minister). It was claimed that turning these ultra-sensitive security issues into a wild public free-for-all was the height of galling irresponsibility.
Among the critics are three members of Netanyahu’s eight-minister inner cabinet, a key decision-making body. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said what the media was publishing had “no relation to the truth” yet was causing “tremendous damage.” Minister-without-Portfolio Benny Begin called it a “campaign of recklessness.” In an op-ed in another daily, Maariv, Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Dan Meridor said the media hubbub amounted to a form of treason.
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