Hebrew-language newspapers in Israel have launched a strong attack on Benjamin Netanyahu's speech at the annual conference of the leading Israeli lobby group in the United States. The Israeli Prime Minister told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) that it would be Israelis who pay the price of any war with Iran, not American Jews who back him.
In Thursday's edition of Maariv, Netanyahu was criticised for his boast about the strength of the Israeli army "without saying a word about the high price it would pay if we really attacked Iran". Such a price will be paid, the article continued, "and will be much more than is being considered".
The newspaper added that Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak "can plan everything carefully except for the results"; that is the price to be paid. "Justification for an attack on Iran is based on the assumption that an irrational leader stands before us; one who would not hesitate to take crazy steps against Israel if we don't make a pre-emptive strike to destroy his nuclear capability. However, such irrationality would also work if we attacked Iran." What the newspaper called the "paranoia of persecution" leads those in favour of an attack on Iran to talk about "the annihilation of the State of Israel in the absence of any action by Israel against the Iranian nuclear reactor", it said.
The author added: "In Netanyahu's world, if we don't attack Iran, a genocide will destroy the entire Jewish nation, as the Nazis tried to do, but can we say with confidence that that State of Israel will continue to exist, with the same power and prosperity that we enjoy today, if we do attack Iran? "
While Barak has said that not even 500 Israelis will be killed in any Iranian response to an attack, Maariv asked pertinently, "Who can guarantee that?"
In Haaretz, an article by Gideon Levy accused Netanyahu of playing with the emotions of Israelis to garner support from the Jews in America, by saying that Israel is on the brink of another Holocaust. "Netanyahu dramatises and inflates the Iranian threat to the degree that makes him the defender of Israel against a new Holocaust," said Levy.
He continued, "What does Hitler have to do with Ahmadinejad? Isn't the danger of nuclear weapons in Iran serious enough without calling on the Holocaust to magnify it? And perhaps there has been enough of the assertion that 'in every generation there are those who want to destroy the Jewish people', as Netanyahu also claimed in his speech in the United States."
According to Levy, "Leaders who spread anxiety are abundant in non-democratic regimes. But in Israel, these tactics evidently win elections, as has been the case with Netanyahu. What does he have to offer Israelis but fearmongering? And what will happen after, one way or another, he eradicates the present danger? Will we be infected with a new one? Will he invent one?"
Calling for the Prime Minister to "imbue us with some hope for change", Levy pointed out that "a young person born in Israel 30 years ago has grown up only on Netanyahu's fearmongering campaigns and nothing else."