Attacking Iran without U.S. backing ‘unthinkable,’ Israeli journalist says

Avirama Golan

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Israeli journalist Avirama Golan, a senior correspondent for Haaretz newspaper, says a unilateral strike by Israel against Iran’s nuclear sites without the backing of the United States would be “unthinkable.” Golan, a veteran Israeli journalist who describes herself as “of the Old School,” has been with Haaretz since 1991. In 1996, she became the first woman to join the influential liberal daily’s editorial board.

Golan, 62, was brought to St. Louis by the Jewish Community Relations Council as part of a speaking tour sponsored by the Consulate of Israel for the Midwest Region. She spoke at Washington University at an event cosponsored by the JCRC and the department for Jewish and Near Eastern Studies and Hillel.

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Commenting on President Barack Obama’s speech to the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), she praised Obama’s “balanced approach,” but expressed concern that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and some of his coalition partners have “contributed to a mood of panic regarding the threat from Iran,” which has given the push towards an Israeli attack a strong forward momentum.

“The present Israeli government has become so consumed with Iran that discussion about such issues as Israel’s internal problems with the Haredi, economic issues and the peace process have been pushed aside,” she said.

“It would be just unthinkable for Israel to attack Iran without U.S. support,” Golan added. “The non-stop talk about Iran has created a sense of panic among the Israeli public, which has caused a push towards a military strike. Retired generals, former prime ministers, heads of Mossad and journalists on all sides of the issue have weighed in. When Ehud Barak as the Israel Defense Minister gives an interview answering in detail questions about the probability of war, it was utterly irresponsible. He is the senior military decision-maker and should not give detailed interviews on possible military actions. I don’t think our leaders are behaving in the most responsible way.”

Golan pointed out that she is not the expert on military and diplomatic matters at Haaretz. She explained that two internal experts who follow the Arab and Muslim worlds for the newspaper do not believe Iran currently has nuclear weapons, adding that one of these experts thinks it would be a “disaster” for Israel to take military action.

“In the public debate, about half of those who speak on the topic oppose military action and half strongly push for it,” Golan said. “It has become difficult to objectively evaluate the pros and cons of Israel taking such an action. The voices in the debate who do not have all the facts but do have strong opinions has contributed to the present climate of panic.”

Golan said that the current debate over Iran has drawn away attention from “serious internal problems in Israel, such as what to do about the Haredi who are caught in a loop of not being productive members of society, being in abject poverty and avoiding military service.” She added that the debate over Iran has also blocked out coverage of the social justice demonstrations in Israel over the high costs of housing and the increased income disparity there.