Let's not dwell on the possibility of failure. If an attack fails to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities, Israel will receive a Yom Kippur War-like blow. Its deterrence will be compromised and it will be revealed as a paper tiger. Iranian revenge will then be particularly painful.
Let's hope everything will go well. The planes will drop their bombs, all the reactors and the facilities will be razed to their foundations. Even then, there is a danger that some planes will be shot down, God forbid, and then we'll have another Ron Arad affair (the navigator was lost over Lebanon in 1986 ). But there's no arguing with (historic ) success: the price is worth it.
Even the strongest supporters of an attack - whose numbers, scarily, are increasing - admit there is no chance that Iran will sit idly by, and that an Israeli attack will be countered by a ferocious response. Missiles from the east, the north and perhaps also the south, including against Tel Aviv, will paralyze the country. It could go on for a long time.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak promised a maximum of 500 dead. Perhaps he underestimated, perhaps not, but it is unlikely that Israel is hardened enough to take such a number of casualties in a short time. Blood, bereavement and a stalled economy, all at once. Israelis will be killed, tourists will stay away, the national mood will be one of despair and fear.
But even that is not enough. The Iranians, a people with the memory of Methuselah, will neither forgive nor forget. An Israeli success will be perceived, of course, as much more serious than all the "Satanic Verses" furor. If Salman Rushdie has been living in fear of Iran for almost 25 years, the terror of the fatwah it will issue against Israelis will be greater and persist for much longer. Once again, Hebrew will not be heard beyond the threshold of Ben-Gurion International Airport. Careful, the Iranian avengers are everywhere.
An Iran that has been bombarded and defeated will be a vengeful Iran, and its revenge will be served both hot and cold. First will come the missiles on Israel, then years of terror attacks worldwide. All of that, we recall, is if Israel scores a dizzying success. A global rise in oil prices, also an immediate and unavoidable outcome of success, will bring one of two things to the White House: a furious Democratic president; or an ignorant, right-wing Republican president, neither of which is good for Israel. Europe will also be angry, as will - it almost goes without saying - Russia and China.
But back to Iran. It will redevelop its nuclear potential quickly. It will need about two years to do so, according to even the most ardent supporters of an attack. Its know-how can never be bombed and its motivation will soar, stronger than death, greater than it is now. The Iranian people will unite even more around its leadership, and its hatred for Israel will burn ever brighter.
Still, we gained two years; two hard years for Israel. And what would happen after that? Another bombardment? Another success? Meanwhile, there will be a few small comforts: "Many things will be destroyed and many will weep, but the demagogues will be silenced," the poet Aharon Shabtai wrote in an article in the Hebrew edition of Haaretz (March 16 ). Shabtai was referring to the possibility of failure, but also to the one case of true success - the assumption that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak will not survive politically.
Prime ministers and defense ministers do not usually survive mass casualties. That was the case after the failed Yom Kippur War and the successful first Lebanon war. People will not forget the damage of success when it comes to those two, and they will be forced off the stage, even if they are drunk with victory at first.
Perhaps Israeli megalomania will also be reined in. Having learned from the experience of the Six-Day War, maybe more Israelis will understand that even military success can end in tears, weeping that will last for generations. Having learned from wars about which we had a choice, wars that were intended to achieve regional control, perhaps more Israelis will understand that the way to strengthen Israel's standing in the region is not through bombardment. "And we will sober up, once again be human beings who wield pencils," as Shabtai put it. Our only comfort then, in the imagined success that could soon be upon us, is that it will be only slightly less arduous than its horrific opposite.
* A personal note: In my article "Living in Bamba Land" (March 15 ), I stated that MK Zahava Gal-On made no mention on her Facebook page of events in the south and in Gaza. I was not aware that Gal-On was in mourning last week following the death of her mother. I extend my condolences and an apology to Gal-On.
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