Israelis demonstrate in Tel Aviv against possible Iran strike
Several hundred Israelis demonstrated in downtown Tel Aviv Sunday night, calling on their government not to attack Iran in a bid to thwart the Islamic republic's suspected nuclear arms programme, dpa reported.
Gathering outside the luxury apartment block in which Defence Minister Ehud Barak lives, the protestors carried signs condemning a possible Israeli strike, and calling on Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign rather than endanger the lives of Israeli citizens.
One demonstrator raised a sign depicting Barak in the uniform of the Nazi SS, but he was immediately ordered by the protest's organizers to remove his sign and leave the demonstration.
One participant, who took photographs of some of the demonstrators, said that "huge fear" lurked behind their smiles.
The protest comes amid renewed speculation that an Israeli attack on Iran is only a matter of months, or even weeks.
Two leading Israeli commentators wrote Friday, in an article which cited no sources or attribution, that Barak and Netanyahu are pushing for an Israeli attack in the autumn, even though Israel's defence and security establishment is opposed.
On Sunday, Netanyahu told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem: "All the threats directed at the home front are dwarfed by another threat of a different size and scope. And so I say again: Iran must not be allowed to attain nuclear weapons."
But Netanyahu's predecessor as premier, Ehud Olmert, said Sunday that Israeli action on Iran would be premature at this stage.
"The Iranian nuclear project has not reached a level that forces Israel to act immediately or in the near future," he was quoted in the Israeli media as saying during a conference in northern Israel.
"All this talk about how an attack is inevitable does not reflect the way things look to the security establishment. I would suggest listening closely to the people within the establishment," he said.
"If the international community does not do what it is expected to do, then Israel will have no choice but to act alone," Olmert said. "I do not rule out the possibility that we may have to make such a decision, but that is not the situation today."
He said he shared the view that Israel could not live with a nuclear Iran, but criticized the current public debate about a possible Israel strike as contributing "nothing to our ability to deal with the threat that Iran poses for Israel."