News / Middle East

Israel Debates Possible Fallout From Attack on Iran

Scott Bobb

In recent months, Israeli leaders have stepped up their rhetoric about Iran’s nuclear capabilities and increasingly are warning that Israel might attack Iranian nuclear installations to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon. Lately they are warning that such an attack could come this year. This is sparking widespread debate in Israel, where memories are still vivid of missile attacks on the country two decades ago during the Iraq war.

Bitter memories

Lawyer Moshe Meiron, 86, sits in the living room of his house in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan. He was deputy mayor of the town when Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, under attack by a coalition of Western and Arab states because of his invasion of Kuwait, 21 years ago launched Scud missiles against Israel.

Meiron recalls the night after a siren alert when he was huddled with his wife in a safe room, wearing gas masks. A missile struck their car parked in the driveway nine meters away.

“Everything, five or six villas, were completely destroyed," Meiron said. "All the cars were burned up. And it's a miracle that we are here alive, my wife and I.”

Photo Gallery: Iran's military assets

Global threat

Such memories of retaliation by Israel's enemies have not deterred Israel's senior leaders from warning that they are prepared to attack another country in the region, Iran, to prevent it from gaining nuclear weapons. They say a military attack is a last option but that they are prepared to go it alone if the international community hesitates.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says a nuclear Iran would pose a global threat.

"A nuclear-armed Iran is a threat to Israel, to the region, to the world. Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. Period," Netanyahu said.

How Israel is planning to stop Iran from doing so has been the subject of a number of media reports in recent weeks.

Time running out

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak recently told a conference of military strategic experts in Hertzliya near Tel Aviv that time is running out for an effective military strike, possibly before the end of this year, and the problem must be dealt with soon.

Experts say Tehran is moving important nuclear facilities into an underground fortress that is not likely to be seriously damaged by even the heaviest bombs.

Iranian leaders deny any intent to make nuclear weapons and say their nuclear program is for peaceful uses: power generation and medical research.

But Iran has warned it would retaliate for any attack. Tehran possesses ballistic missiles that can reach Israel and as far as Europe. One expert at the conference said Tehran is working on a missile that could reach the United States.

Missile range

Israel Debates Possible Fallout From Attack on Iran
Israel Debates Possible Fallout From Attack on Iran

Iran specialist David Menashri says the repercussions of an Israeli attack could also de-stabilize the region.

“Using such an option can have devastating consequences for a long time and for the sake of peace in the Middle East it's better to find other solutions," he said. "I think other solutions exist.”

Menashri believes sanctions and international pressure should be ratcheted up until the Iranian government agrees to negotiate an end to any nuclear weapons program.

The United States and European Union have imposed economic sanctions on Iran, including restrictions on its Central Bank and an embargo on Iranian oil exports, which make up one-half of its domestic product.


Iran has responded by saying it will cut off oil supplies to Europe and might block the Strait of Hormuz, a transit point for crude oil exports from other Gulf oil producers.

Some analysts believe Israel does not intend to attack Iran unilaterally but is talking about it to marshal public opinion and pressure its allies to enact even stiffer sanctions.

But, according to media reports, senior Israeli officials do not believe sanctions will ultimately persuade Iran to abandon its supposed nuclear ambitions.

Others, like military history professor Martin van Creveld, say a military attack would only delay Iran's nuclear program by a few years. He says the international community should accept that Iran will one day acquire a nuclear weapons capability.

"There is the possibility that the Iranians will say, look, this nuclear business is causing us so much trouble let's get the bomb as soon as we can; tell the whole world; and then no one will be able to touch us," he said.

Regional stability

Israel Debates Possible Fallout From Attack on Iran
Israel Debates Possible Fallout From Attack on Iran

But allowing Iran to develop a nuclear capability would be a disaster, according to other analysts, such as Ephraim Kam of Tel Aviv's Institute for National Security Studies.

“It will make the Middle East less stable. It might induce other countries in the Middle East to join the nuclear race, countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Turkey, or Syria, in the long run perhaps even Iraq," said Kam. "The Middle East is going to be a much less safe place for many countries.”

Even if Israel launches a military strike against Iran, critics say it does not have the capability to successfully destroy Iran’s nuclear installations.They note that attack planes would need to refuel to reach Iran, 1,000 kilometers away. And they would need some kind of agreement to fly over Iran's neighbors.

US urges restraint

While U.S. President Barak Obama says Washington will not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran and that all options are on the table, U.S. officials have urged restraint to allow the sanctions to work.

Public opinion surveys show the Israeli public is divided over attacking Iran. In a recent poll, 43 percent of respondents said they support an attack, while 41 percent said they oppose it.

However, nearly two-thirds of the respondents (62 percent) said they believe Iran will eventually develop nuclear weapons.

Lasting effects

On a street in Jerusalem, salesman Jonathan Fisher believes war is inevitable.

"Of war, I'm sure about it," said Fisher. "A war in Israel is just a matter of time. It will surely happen. When? I do not know."

Recent immigrant Pascal Roy says he feels safe in Israel.

"I wish there was a compromise before reaching," said Roy. "I'm totally opposed to a military attack before talking."

Student Oriyana Spitzer, 14, is worried about the future. She wants a peace that will allow people to live together with no more wars. 

Yaniv Shemesh was 14 years old when a Scud missile hit his apartment's neighborhood in Ramat Gan 21 years ago, wounding dozens of people. He still suffers from the trauma (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and cannot work.

He says he has nightmares, nervousness and tension. He avoids leaving his tiny apartment and anything that reminds him of the attack. He says he is obsessive and suspicious.

Like many Israelis, he hopes the confrontation between Israel and Iran will not go beyond saber rattling.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs