In the wake of the media storm about the possibility of an Israeli military strike in Iran, a veteran journalist recalled on Sunday another Israeli military operation: the 1981 strike on Iraq’s nuclear reactor.
On June 7, 1981, during the term of Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Israel carried out Operation Opera, a surprise air strike that destroyed a nuclear reactor under construction 17 kilometers (10.5 miles) southeast of Baghdad.
Yaakov Achimeir, veteran broadcaster on Channel One and Kol Yisrael radio, received firsthand information about Israel’s intention to bomb the Iraqi nuclear reactor, but kept silent and resisted the temptation to share the information with his viewers and journalist friends.
“About three or four weeks before the bombing, I received the information about the bombing,” Achimeir recalled in a conversation with Arutz Sheva. “A senior official told me about it and described the training the air force was doing in preparation for the operation. I listened with great interest.”
He added, “That official told me about it inadvertently because we were friends. He took a great risk because he had no idea I wouldn’t say anything about it. He spoke casually and revealed to me one of the greatest secrets of the State of Israel.”
Achimeir recalled that while he kept the details of the attack a secret from his colleagues, “at one point I told some people that something big is about to happen. I guess I had to share something with somebody.”
The easy part, he said, was not saying a word to the viewers when he was on camera.
“I never even thought that I should suggest to the audience that something like this is going to happen,” he said, “The thought never crossed my mind.”
Achimeir said that if he were to receive firsthand information about a strike in Iran, he would behave the same way he did 30 years ago.
“If I knew anything and believed that revealing it would damage Israel’s security, I would behave today in the same way I did then, even though the media is much more open now than it was in 1981,” he said. “I know that some of my colleagues in the media might make fun of these principles which I’ve set for myself, but this is what I believe in.”
“Today, a journalist’s ego is much more powerful and dominant than it ever was before,” he added. “I know the media world in which I live.”
Israel's media outlets speculated widely last week about a possible imminent Israeli strike in Iran. The speculations were based on unverified claims that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have been lobbying for ministerial support for the strike.
The Israeli government has reportedly ordered a probe into leaks to the media which caused these unbridled speculations.