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U.S. Envoy Visits Israel to Discuss Iran Tensions

By Robert Berger (VOA-Jerusalem)

President Barack Obama has dispatched a senior envoy to Israel amid growing tensions with Iran about its nuclear program. U.S. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon met with Israeli leaders amid growing American concern Israel is planning a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

In a U.S. television interview Sunday, America's top general, Martin Dempsey, warned an attack on Iran at this time is "not prudent" and "would be premature." It is believed that Donilon is bringing the same message to Israel in person. "It sounds like it is part of the American effort to prevent Israel from using force now," said Israeli analyst Uri Bar Yosef.

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. But Israel and the West believe Tehran is building nuclear weapons that could threaten the existence of the Jewish state. The United States sees military action as a last resort, and wants Israel to give international sanctions against Iran more time. Israel has welcomed the tougher measures imposed by the West, but at the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem officials warned sanctions have fallen short.

Israeli Cabinet minister Gideon Sa'ar said the aim of sanctions is to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, but that has not been achieved. Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Iran is getting closer to nuclear capability and therefore "no option should be removed off the table." Israeli officials reiterated that includes the military option, if sanctions and diplomacy fail.

Rocket Protection System to be Deployed in Tel Aviv Area


The IDF plans to deploy a battery of the Iron Dome missile defense system in the Dan area in the coming days. The deployment is part of and IDF exercise that will examine the preparedness of the center of the country for a missile attack, similar to the attacks that occurred in northern Israel during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

Residents of the center of the country will be able for the first time to witness how the system deflects incoming rockets, such as those in the possession of Hamas and Hizbullah. The systems will be deployed in Tel Aviv and its suburbs for several days, during which security officials will determine, among other things, the best places to deploy the systems in order for them to act most effectively.

IDF officials stressed that there was no specific security reason for the system to be deployed at this particular time – other than the fact that it is part of a wide-ranging security exercise that had been long planned. An IDF statement said that the system "was active," and that "at various times it is deployed in different parts of the country. This week, as part of a security exercise, the system will be deployed in the Dan Region for several days."

The IDF has been preparing for the possibility of a massive missile attack on the Tel Aviv area for at least the past several years. In 2009, then-IDF intelligence chief Amos Yadlin said that Hamas had succeeded in firing a rocket with a 60 kilometer (36 mile) range. The rocket was apparently made in Iran, and the crew that shot had may have undergone training in Iran or Syria, Yadlin said – adding that such missiles could hit Tel Aviv, Ben Gurion Airport, and other locations in central Israel.

Iran Threatens `Crushing Response' If Attacked


Iran has threatened a "crushing response to Israel's slightest move" as the United States raises the volume against a pre-emptive strike. Iran also has announced new war games for next month.

The Ahmadinejad regime chose its ambassador to Lebanon, Qazanfar Roknabadi, to deliver a message on Saturday that "Iran will not start a possible war with the Zionist regime but will deliver a decisive response to any aggression by the regime." As usual, he refrained from using the term "Israel." Regardless of Israel's intentions, Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps is planning new war games next month in a desert area in the central part of the country.

Commander of the IRGC Ground Forces, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Pakpour, said on Saturday that the drill will implement "modern defensive tactics, taking advantage of advanced indigenous military equipment," the state-run Fars News Agency reported. Iran's media, most of it government controlled, played up advice by General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, that it would be unwise to attack Iran now.

"It's not prudent at this point to decide to attack Iran," Dempsey told CNN on Saturday. "I think it would be premature to exclusively decide that the time for a military option was upon us. A strike at this time would be destabilizing and wouldn't achieve their (the Israelis') long-term objectives. I wouldn't suggest, sitting here today, that we've persuaded them that our view is the correct view and that they are acting in an ill-advised fashion."

The Obama administration has been jaw-boning in the media against a military strike, claiming that harsh sanctions against Iran are working and that Israel should wait. The dilemma for Israel is that most military and intelligence officials warn that postponing military action will close the "window of opportunity" as Iran continues to race ahead towards nuclear capability, especially at its underground nuclear facilities.

The BBC reported Sunday that Iran appears to be preparing to speed up production of enriched uranium, a key ingredient of a nuclear weapon. It announced last week it has installed an additional 3,000 centrifuges in its underground nuclear plant near the city of Qom.

Haredi Man Takes 2nd Wife, Stirring Row


The Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim is in a state of uproar after a young ultra-Orthodox man took a second wife before divorcing the first one. The posters claim that "a contemptible act has been carried out in Israel", accusing the couple of "secretly marrying each other in the dark." The names of the matchmakers were also mentioned, including the Eda Haredit faction's operations officer, Yoelish Kroiz.

The marriage was revealed recently, after the husband asked to divorce his first wife and was turned down. He approached as many as 100 rabbis, who gave him permission to remarry despite the halachic ban on polygamy. According to a source in Mea Shearim, the unusual act was aimed at hurting the "Taliban women" faction, which the bride is affiliated with. "This is a forbidden act," he said. "Moreover, the couple was cynically used in a hurtful and degrading manner."

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