Possible War with Iran and Regional Instability Worry Israel’s Investors
Israel’s stock prices and its currency, the shekel, dropped sharply Monday amid a media campaign against a possible Israeli preemptive strike on Iran, and it seemed investors were also worried about a generally unstable regional security situation., including upheavals in Egypt, Syria and Jordan.
“The TASE (Tel Aviv Stock Exchange) fell hard across the board today, despite a mixed session in European markets,” reported the local financial newspaper, Gobes, citing “new talk of a possible strike on Iran.”
There was no panic selling but, economic observers spoke of “jitters” among investors brought on by several regional developments, including the New Egyptian government’s shake-up of senior army officials yesterday, sending tanks, planes and large forces into Sinai for the first time since the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in order to fight several terror groups, and the continued bloodshed in Syria that threatens to destabilize the border regions of Israel, Turkey and Jordan with an ever-surging flow of refugees.
The air of uncertainty has also been fed by an campaign led by media opponents of the Israeli government and its consideration of a possible preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear program.
“Not Ready for War,” headlined Yediot Aharonot, Israel’s top-selling newspaper yesterday, and today it ran a feature strongly suggesting that Defense Minister Ehud Barak was making his decisions for political and personal reasons.
Meanwhile, Haaretz newspaper headlined today “Price of Attacking Iran Too Dear.”
“We all know what happened the last time an Israeli prime minister led us to war without being properly prepared,” declared Carmela Menasheh, the military correspondent of Voice of Israel radio, who roundly criticized Prime Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
She was not alone in comparing Netanyahu’s planning to the bumbling war effort in Lebanon in 2006 by then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, or in making bold claims about Israel’s supposed lack of readiness.
Another reporter on Israeli television Channel One somewhat off-handedly suggested that 200,000 rockets would strike Israel in an upcoming face-off with Iran, and one protester said 300,000 rockets would strike Tel Aviv in one night, but pulled back his remarks and changed his figures when challenged to substantiate them.
“I would bet that 3,000 (three thousand) rockets will fall on Tel Aviv in one night,” asserted Roni Bair, a film director, who has been protesting at Defense Minister Barak’s home every evening.
Tel Aviv’s stock exchange (TASE) lost a percentage and a half in two main indices, while post-trading rates of foreign exchange showed the shekel losing almost one point seven percent against the dollar, reaching a level of 4.07 to the dollar.