As the Republican and Democratic conventions draw near, the news media expends more of its time on election-related coverage. The focus is either on gaffes made by Vice President Biden, the fiscal policies and the fitness regimen of Mitt Romney’s choice for VP, Representative Paul Ryan, and the campaign battles between the two presidential candidates. But there is also another piece of news that gets tossed into the election mix, and it has been heating up – the seeming timeline for Israel to attack Iran.
Almost as the Wag the Dog scenario, the media seems to be pushing a story that may not be anything more than the information we have known about for close to two years now, and trying to make it real. Fox News and CNN were showing children being fitted for gas masks and commenting that Israel is approaching the zero-barrier for an offensive attack. My brother, in from Israel for the week, was watching with me and said that his family’s masks were fitted for them more than one year ago, and that this is just the continuation of the preparedness campaign the Israeli government is practicing.
They have Israel pundits speak as experts of the so-called timeline, seemingly suggesting that Israel’s leaders have already determined the time and method of attack. The rhetoric goes back to Iranian leaders and supporters who threaten Israel through the media, advising that they are ready for anything Israel brings on.
Why now, and what is driving this sudden uptick in reporting on Israel’s hurry to strike at Iran? If Israel is truly heading to war, it gains nothing by this kind of talk. To have reports of its final decisions on any action against Iran reported in the news as “we have it on good authority,” or the “secret plan” is usually counterintuitive. If Israel has made any decisions, I would hope it would not mark the day, time and method on public calendars, but that is really beside the point.
There is a school of thought that seems to believe that Israel policy will make or break this upcoming presidential election. By ramping up the news on an Israel offensive, the people pushing this agenda may be hoping to spark some real action in the Middle East, but they surely are trying to spark a debate on Israel and U.S. support for it before people walk into the voting booths in November.
Israel is a contentious issue here today, as the country is used as a pawn in the campaign chess game with little regard for what that might be doing for Israel itself. Those pushing the war rhetoric want to force President Obama to comment on his support or perhaps, his opposition to an Israel strike with the expectation that his position will compromise his chances to get re-elected. There are many Christian voters and Jewish ones as well who may vote based on those very comments.
On the other hand, the agenda could be supporters of Obama trying to push him to emphatically express his willingness to send military aid to any effort Israel undergoes to show this President as a constant and mighty man of war when he needs to be in support of Israel – echoing the declarations that this president killed Osama bin Laden.
Whether Israel attacks Iran or not has been the focus of debate for nearly two years, if not longer. Any actual decision would be based in its determination of the threat potential of Iran’s weapons program and the bona fide progress Iran has made toward the manufacturing of a nuclear warhead. It will not be made based on whether or not anyone truly believes that it will change the course of an election. Anyone who believes that, truly misjudges the value Israel places on the preservation of human life. The IDF takes unprecedented measures to protect the lives even of its enemies and launching a war to effect votes in the United States only puts even more in harm’s way, in fact. It is safe to say that if Israel’s leaders feel that it must take drastic action against Iran, the first calls will not be to Wolf Blitzer on CNN or Megyn Kelly on Fox, so watch the news over the next 70 days or so, but watch it knowing it is more of a show than news.
Israel’s possible choices are the buzz, but we are now at one and a half years since Syria began slaughtering its own people and no one seems to care. The U.S. went into Libya and NATO offered military support for the revolutionaries who overthrew and killed Muammar Gaddafi in only weeks of that civil uprising, for it was oil we were all looking to protect. Syria seemingly has nothing of value, rendering the lives of its people worthless to the world. Iran, on the other hand, has oil and has the ability to disrupt important supply lines in The Strait of Hormuz, and therefore, it has been able to push through its nuclear agenda with just rhetoric to counter its efforts.
If Iran has or gets a nuclear weapon – from what its own president and mullahs proudly declare – the potential for war, death and mass destruction across the globe becomes so much greater, yet the immediate concerns of oil and the economic impact are the driving forces of toothless actions.
United States presidents in the distant past, and past world leaders alike, took actions that would have long-term influence on their countries – some that were not even realized until after their deaths, long after their administrations had passed. Today, though, we do not see magnanimity like that, as the focus is on short term measures that can be seen in the next election cycle. That’s why fiscal reform is hard in the United States – because it will hurt now and cost votes next term; and that is why the focus is on whether Israel will do something about the menace of a nuclear Iran, because for Israel it is not a long-term threat – it is on its doorstep. But don’t expect Israel to hold a press conference until after any action commences.
Juda Engelmayer is a senior vice president of the New York public relations agency,5WPR