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3 Aug, 2009 07:46

Israel braces itself as Ahmadinejad gets reelected

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been approved as the next president of Iran by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution and is to be inaugurated on Wednesday. His retention of power means Iran remains a nuclear threat.

Ahmadinejad’s aggressive rhetoric against Israel makes many in Jerusalem concerned over what they see as the biggest menace facing the Jewish state.

Operation Opera – Israel’s attack on Iraq’s nuclear reactor 28 years ago – was bold. Fighter jets flew undetected before dropping sixteen bombs over the Osirak nuclear plant near Baghdad.

The reactor was destroyed, and there were no Israeli casualties.

Despite continuing debate, the mission’s commander Zeev Raz is convinced then Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, had nuclear ambitions.

“We knew we were the team that was going to stop this threat. You can imagine, my family, almost all my mother’s family was killed by the Nazis in Europe the 1940’s and I’m named after her father, so we thought about a potential second holocaust,” Raz says.

And now nearly thirty years later, Israelis feel they are again under threat.

And the focus has shifted to Iran and whether they should repeat the strike that was so successful three decades ago. But times have changed.

“It’s a much more complicated situation now, tactically and strategically. Tactically there is no one target you can destroy and stop the project. And many parts of the project are deep under the ground, under mountains, you have to go there with lots of ground troops.”

The signs are that Israel is preparing for something.

Israeli aircraft have been holding simulated long-distance combat sorties in the US and the Mediterranean, while its missile warships have sailed into the Red Sea.

There is speculation a facility has been built in southern Israel to shield its own nuclear reactor if the Iranians counter-attack.

“Iran is continuing to advance as a military nuclear capability, and it has a radical regime. The combination of the two and a high desire to achieve nuclear capability…is an existential threat against the state of Israel,” former Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz says.

Israelis are used to coping with the threat of war.

But Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s anti-Israeli rhetoric and boasts of long-range ballistic missiles capable of hitting the Jewish state have Israelis worried.

“If negotiations between Iran and the US fail, if sanctions don’t work, and if, the most important if, the US decides it’s in its interest for a military attack against Iran’s nuclear installations, then I think chances of a military strike by Israel and the US, or Israel alone, will significantly increase,” Iranian-Israeli Middle East analyst Meir Javedanfar says.

But more and more Israelis are not taking chances. Hundreds of families are installing nuclear bunkers in their homes to protect them against a possible Iranian nuclear attack.

Ori Rakib uses his family’s bunker as a music studio. At two thousand square feet and costing half a million dollars, it can hold 25 people for two weeks.

With walls thicker than a normal bomb shelter, it has a special system to block radioactive fallout.

“I hope to think it’s just a bunch of propaganda and some sort of cold war, but hell, if there is, I’m lucky…And there is a waiting list which you might want to check out, I can push you up a few steps. But I’ll have my guitar so I’m just gonna keep playing,” Ori says, laughing.

Israeli Knesset says half a billion dollars has been spent on a nuclear shelter in the Jerusalem hills. There, an Israeli war cabinet could run the country in case of a nuclear attack from Iran.

So it seems Israel and its people are preparing for any eventuality.