There are two things I know for certain—no, not death and taxes this time—regarding Israel’s battle with Iran. And make no mistake about it; it is a fierce battle already, if not a full fledge war yet (it is coming, though, don’t worry). One: If Israel is to attack Iran, it will come at a moment of surprise to us all. Two: Had Bibi Netanyahu and Ehud Barak thought they could accomplish the mission of destroying Iran’s nuclear facilities without the help of America, they would have done so already by now. But they lost the element of surprise some time ago, and they are in the process, and danger, of losing the support of the American people for such a war, too. Let’s examine why.
Mr. Netanyahu’s positions is cut clear: A nuclear weapon, even one bomb, in the hands of the Iranian regime is one too many. It would be an existential threat to the Jewish state, with the still fresh memories of the Holocaust a central reminder of the reason to the existence of the state, and therefore must be eliminated at all costs. The Israeli PM is also certain Iran is pursuing such a weapon, and that the “clear red line”—i.e., the capability of enriching enough uranium to produce a nuclear bomb, as he cleverly demonstrated yesterday at the UN—is a matter of months, and that the Iranian leaders inflammatory rhetoric is indeed a proof of their intentions. Israel, of course, is already engaged in a battle with Iran for quite sometime now, assassinating its scientists, sabotaging the progress and development of its nuclear program with cyber attacks, computer viruses and so on. Mr. Netanyahu also firmly believes that the UN and International community economical, political and other sanctions on Iran are but cosmetic, and at best just delaying the inevitable outcome.
On that last point there is disagreement between Israel and America (and some other Western nations). The Obama administration—the president himself, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Panetta—believes these severe sanctions and diplomacy efforts, plus the battle behind the scenes, in which America is apparently a full participant, are taking their toll on the Iranians. They believe these measures are delaying the production of the nuclear bomb by Iran, and do make life miserable on its people, and therefore on the regime as well. President Obama, on his part, had expressed the same opinion Mr. Netanyahu is expressing in his speech at the UN (and before, too): i.e. that Iran should not posses a nuclear weapon, and that America will take a decisive action should that predicament becomes a reality.
There are also voices that challenge the central assumption of both nations. Another words, the need to attack Iran. In a major op-ed piece in the NYT on September 12, titled, “Nuclear Mullahs,” Jim Keller (the former Executive Director of the newspaper), had asked the question what’s better: To have an Iran with a nuclear weapon, or an all out war with all its dangerous consequences. And in Israel itself there are many voices, coming from important, serious people who also oppose such an attack, especially a unilateral, preemptive attack by Israel. Here’s a brief collection of these voices from an article in the New Yorker, September 3, by David Remnick: Yuval Diskin, head of Shin Bet from 2005 to 2011: “One of the results of an Israeli attack on Iran could be a dramatic acceleration of the Iranian program.” Aharon Ze’evi Farkah, former head of military intelligence: “Israeli attack would lack legitimacy, unite a fractured Iranian leadership, and make it clear that they need a bomb now so that we cannot attack them again.” Said a retired Israeli general: “Intelligence is something that is always debatable (just remember the pretext to the Iraq War, H.D). Remember, we had a kidnapped Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, who was held for five years just beyond our border and we didn’t know where he was. Are we really sure we know everything about the Iranian nuclear program?” To these voices of harsh criticism (of the rush to war, H.D.) of the Netanyahu/Barak’s position, add General Shaul Mofaz, former Defense Minister, and of course the familiar voice by now of Meir Dagan, the head of the Mossad from 2002 until January 2011. People “in the know,” wouldn’t you say?
Here then is the cardinal question: Is it better for Israel and America to live with the reality and danger of an Iranian regime possessing a nuclear capability, rather than to start an all out war against Iran and its facilities, with an unknown outcome, but with major dangers and consequences for the fragile stability of the Middle East, and the world for that matter.