JERUSALEM – Dozens of Israelis crowded in front of a storefront at a Jerusalem shopping mall this week to pick up new gas masks, part of civil defense preparations in case the military strikes Iran and the Islamic Republic or its allies retaliate.
Our leaders seem to have gotten very hawkish in their speeches, and this time it seems they mean what they say, said Yoram Lands, 68, a professor of business administration, who was picking up new masks for himself and his wife at a distribution center in the mall.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta this month that time is running out for a peaceful solution to Irans atomic program.
The Tel Aviv-based Haaretz newspaper reported Friday that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are considering bombing Irans nuclear facilities before U.S. elections Nov. 6. Matan Vilnai, the outgoing home front defense minister, said the ministry has prepared for a scenario in which hundreds of rockets fired by Iran and its allies fall on Israel, the Maariv newspaper reported.
The evaluations are that the war would last 30 days on several fronts, Vilnai said, according to Maariv. The number of Israeli deaths are estimated at about 500, maybe more, maybe less, he said, according to Maariv.
Mark Regev, Netanyahus spokesman, said government policy is not to comment on media speculation.
It seems that Netanyahu and Barak are making a special effort now to prepare the Israeli public for an attack on Iran, said Shlomo Brom, a former commander of the armys Strategic Planning Division, who said any strike could come within the next six months.
In the past, rhetoric was directed at pushing the international community to take stronger action against Iran, said Brom, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.
Polls show the Israeli publics opposition to a strike has been easing. An estimated 46 percent of Israelis are against an attack on Iran without U.S. support, according to a poll by the Dialog Institute reported on Channel 10 on Sunday.
That compares with 58 percent opposed to such a move in a survey by Dialog published on March 8 in Haaretz. Both surveys questioned 500 Israeli adults.
While Israeli leaders repeatedly have said they could strike Irans facilities, the words are now being accompanied by civil-defense measures, including a new system that uses text messages to alert the public to missile attacks, wider distribution of gas masks and the appointment of a new Home Front Defense minister. Schools in the north will hold bomb-shelter drills to prepare for possible rocket attacks when they open this month, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported Wednesday, without saying where it got the information.
The threats also come as nuclear talks between Iran and world powers have stalled and increased sanctions have so far failed to stop Irans atomic progress.
Iranian officials have dismissed the threats of an attack.
We dont think any of the officials in this illegitimate regime wants to do something as illogical as this, Ramin Mehmanparast, Irans Foreign Ministry spokesman, told a Tehran news conference Tuesday. Iran says its nuclear program aims to produce electricity for a growing population.
There are concerns that repeated Israeli threats to strike Iran may force Israels hand if the West doesnt take more serious action.
The Israelis are almost in the comic situation of threatening to strike repeatedly – this is the third threat in three months – but nothing ever happens, which in my view is damaging to their credibility, said Aaron David Miller, a former State Department official and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a Washington policy group.
Barak in February said that Israel would need to act militarily within months, before Iran reaches a zone of immunity where its underground enrichment facilities would be invulnerable to Israeli airstrikes.