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Was Netanyahu’s latest nuclear ‘bombshell’ election propaganda?

You’d think that this was a bigger bombshell than the news of Iran’s continued and very concrete efforts to develop nuclear warheads for its long-range missiles. You know, in its pursuit of regional hegemony and its stated aim of “wiping Israel off the map.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the press regarding the Iranian nuclear program, at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on Sept. 9, 2019. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the press regarding the Iranian nuclear program, at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on Sept. 9, 2019. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Ruthie Blum. Photo by Ariel Jerozolomski.
Ruthie Blum
Ruthie Blum, former adviser at the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is an award-winning columnist and senior contributing editor at JNS, as well as co-host, with Amb. Mark Regev, of "Israel Undiplomatic" on JNS-TV. She writes and lectures on Israeli politics and culture, and on U.S.-Israel relations. Originally from New York City, she moved to Israel in 1977 and is based in Tel Aviv.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took to the airwaves on Monday evening to reveal the existence and exact location of yet another secret nuclear-weapons development site in Iran—this one at Abadeh, in the Fars province of Tehran.

In a brief message that he delivered first in Hebrew and then in English—pointing to a screen with aerial photos obtained by Israeli intelligence—Netanyahu said that the site was exposed in the trove of documents that the Mossad had retrieved last year from a warehouse in Turquzabad.

“When Iran realized that we uncovered the site, here’s what they did: They destroyed the site. They just wiped it out. They wiped out the site. … They destroyed the evidence or at least tried to destroy the evidence. … It’s incredible. Every time we reveal, they try to cover up their tracks,” he said.

Netanyahu went on: “Even before that, Iran knew that we were on to them, so they cleared the site. They cleared it of these capacities, they cleared them, and then they actually covered up the site. This is a [literal] cover-up. They put gravel on it to try and hide their traces. But they didn’t. The IAEA found traces of uranium that Iran hid in these sites. That’s a direct violation of the NPT, the nonproliferation treaty.”

Netanyahu then addressed his remarks to the Islamic Republic’s ayatollah-led regime.

“This is what I have to say to the tyrants of Iran: Israel knows what you’re doing, Israel knows when you’re doing it, and Israel knows where you’re doing it,” he stated, warning that “we’ll continue to expose your lies.”

Finally, he turned his focus to the rest of the world.

“I call on the international community to wake up, to realize that Iran is systematically [violating the deal],” he said. “The only way to stop Iran’s march to the bomb and its aggression in the region is pressure, pressure and more pressure.”

His last comment, which he made as he exited the Foreign Ministry podium without taking questions from reporters, was of the “inside baseball” variety.

“It’s important that there be cameras everywhere,” he quipped, referring to his party’s defeat, earlier that day, in a Knesset vote on a proposed bill to enable the filming of the election process at polling stations.

The proximity of Netanyahu’s failure to pass the Security Cameras Law to his dramatic announcement about Iran’s ongoing breach of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—the July 2015 nuclear deal from which U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew a year ago in May—was a source of glee to his political rivals ahead of the fast-approaching Sept. 17 Knesset elections.

Indeed, with only a week to go before Israelis determine the makeup of our next government (if the impasse following the April 9 election is not repeated), all candidates desperate to topple Netanyahu are working hard to discredit his every move. Such is the nature of politics in general and political campaigns in particular.

The attacks on Netanyahu’s timing, then, were to be expected. Ho hum. It certainly didn’t take an Iranian rocket scientist to come up with the tired claim that the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history was “endangering the security of the country” for election-propaganda purposes. Or that Netanyahu “only cares about Netanyahu,” and that he will use any tactic necessary to keep his job.

You’d think that this was a bigger bombshell than the news of Iran’s continued and very concrete efforts to develop nuclear warheads for its long-range missiles. You know, in its pursuit of regional hegemony and its stated aim of “wiping Israel off the map.”

Given the constant mud hurled at Netanyahu by his detractors, you also might imagine that his actions against Iranian bases, and militias in Syria and Iraq, have been geared towards garnering enough votes next week to enable him to form a coalition.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that Netanyahu is using the Israel Defense Forces’ shadow war with Iran as a “propaganda” tool for his re-election. Shouldn’t this be cause for applause, rather than scorn?

Does the Israeli public actually prefer the inane TV commercials put out by each of the parties, including Netanyahu’s Likud, as a method of ballot-box persuasion? Are voters going to decide on the fate of the country by watching poor attempts at pithy clips with stupid slogans?

If safeguarding the country, keeping Trump from being suckered by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and humiliating ostrich Europeans bent on compensating Tehran financially for the losses it has suffered as a result of Washington’s stringent sanctions constitute “propaganda,” then bring it on.

Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ” 

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