Photo shows the cover of a new, emergency pamphlet being distributed nationwide by Israeli Army's Home Front Command
The cover of the 15-page leaflet pictures a smiling Moishe Oofnik, the Israeli Muppet version of Oscar the Grouch. He’s the resident pessimist on Rechov Sumsum, Israel’s co-production of the long-running American children’s program ‘Sesame Street.’
Muppets on the popular show are known for teaching children numbers and the alphabet, but Moishe Oofnik has taken on a different job with this pamphlet – instructing Israelis how to react if their nation’s government launches a war against Iran.
The booklet, issued by the Israeli military, says that once air raid sirens sound, residents of the Jewish state would have between 30 seconds and three minutes to find cover before rockets hit their area. The brochure, which is being distributed across the country, also teaches Israelis how to prepare a safe room or shelter for emergency situations.
The furry Muppet puts a happy face on the warnings, though the issue is anything but lighthearted: Israeli ministers have estimated that up to 500 civilians could die in the conflict that would follow a strike on Iran.
The pamphlet comes in the wake of recent remarks by the country's officials suggesting that Israel may soon launch a unilateral attack on Tehran’s nuclear program. Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak reportedly favor a strike on Iran. Public statements and anonymous quotes to Israeli media in the past week have raised speculation that Israel may soon attack Iran.
The bellicose rhetoric comes over Israeli and Western allegations that Iran’s nuclear program is a cover for the development of atomic weapons, while Tehran claims the facilities are for civilian purposes.
Less than two weeks ago, Netanyahu announced that negotiations with Iran had “failed,” and claimed that Israel will attack Iran in the near future, with or without US consent.
The Israeli Defense Minister also supports military action against Iran: "Barak is advocating for action and the defense establishment is investing billions to prepare for an Israeli military operation," an Israeli official told Ynet News.
But the ambition to set back Iran’s nuclear program could come at a high cost to Israel’s citizens, causing many Israelis to protest a potential attack. The country’s president also recently spoke out against a unilateral strike against Iran.
"It's clear to us that we can't do it alone. We can only delay [Iran's progress]. Thus it's clear to us that we need to go together with America," Shimon Peres told Israel’s Channel Two television.
Iran has promised to retaliate against in Israeli attack in what could lead to a wider regional war among several different forces. Tel Aviv fears that Tehran could induce its Hezbollah guerrilla allies in Lebanon and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip to launch rocket strikes against Israel if Iran were attacked.
As the Israeli government prepares for the worst, it is urging residents to have a “family talk” about preparing for a national emergency. But it’s not just pamphlets that indicate that an attack may be imminent – Israel increased the distribution of gas masks and other protective gear to the public several weeks ago.
"There are always innovations the public needs to know about, it doesn't mean anything is going to happen today, tomorrow or the next day," an Israeli military source told Reuters.
Top US military commander: 'I don't want to be complicit' if Israel attacks Iran
The highest ranking officer in the United States military has announced that he is against American participation in any Israeli-led attack on Iran, even as pressure to destroy the Islamic Republic’s rumored nuclear program remain unrelieved.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in London on Thursday that an Israeli attack would “clearly delay but probably not destroy Iran’s nuclear program,” adding that he was against US cooperation in a unilateral assault.
“I don't want to be complicit if they [Israel] choose to do it,” Dempsey told reporters.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been adamant that the nation’s nuclear facilities exist solely for peaceful purposes and that the country is not in the market for procuring nuclear warheads, a sentiment echoed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who earlier this week told heads of state, "Our motto is nuclear energy for all and nuclear weapons for none."
So far, no foreign nations have been able to independently confirm or deny that claim. On Thursday, however, the United Nation’s International Atomic Energy Agency wrote that Iran has been uncooperative with attempts to investigate their facilities and suggested that they could be procuring nukes.
Israel, a close ally of the United States, has also claimed that Iran’s intentions are motivated by manufacturing of warheads. In May of this year, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak stated, “Our position has not changed. The world must stop Iran from becoming nuclear. All options remain on the table."
From an executive standpoint, President Obama has also remained willing to strike if necessary, but has not pushed for pressure on Iran aside from the sanctions currently imposed by the United States.
"I also don't, as a matter of sound policy, go around advertising exactly what our intentions are. But (both) governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say,” President Obama said earlier this year to The Atlantic.
On Thursday, Gen. Dempsey commented that a strike against Iran over fears of their nuclear program, if conducted, could be without merit and might even erode the pro-Israeli alliance currently in place.
"International coalition" applying pressure on Iran "could be undone if [Iran] was attacked prematurely,” Dempsey said, adding that “Intelligence did not reveal intentions” to procure nukes.
Gen. Dempsey was in the UK to attend the Paralympic Games, where he is serving as the head of the U.S. delegation.