If anyone can save Israel from catastrophe it is the Israel Air Force commander. All Maj. Gen. Ido Nechushtan has to do is whisper to the prime minister and defense minister that an Air Force attack on Iran cannot achieve its goals.

The force's airplanes can reach Iran and even drop bombs, he must tell them, but ultimately the operation will not destroy the Iranian nuclear program. At best it will be delay the program by a few months.

He must give them an account of the attack outlines the force is training on and explain that due to the numerous targets, dense aerial defenses and the fact that some of them are buried deep underground, the chances of success are slim indeed.

Such an approach to the policy makers may be opposed to the "Air Force spirit," but Nechushtan must act with national responsibility. It would not be a display of defeatism, but rather one of supreme responsibility in an era when the decision-making process has gone dangerously haywire. Only he can stop the train speeding to a collision in Iran's skies.

Outgoing Mossad Chief Meir Dagan tried to warn against a foolhardy decision when he said "an attack in Iran is the stupidest thing I've heard." But the prime minister's people know Dagan understands all about spies and assassins, but when it comes to the Air Force's planes and pilots' performance he lacks knowledge and understanding.

As long as the Air Force continues drills on the attack in Iran, it gives Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak the illusion that it is possible to destroy the Iranian nuclear program by military action. This is why the Air Force commander must go to these two and explain there is no point in the continued investment in these drills and they should be stopped.

The decision could be kept in complete secrecy, but it must make it clear to the prime minister and defense minister that their strategic thinking must change direction. No more a policy centered on planning a military blow, but preparing for the era of a nuclear Iran.

It won't be easy to persuade Barak, and especially Netanyahu. The prime minister believes with all his heart that the mission he is charged with is to save the people of Israel, maybe even the entire free world. The Iranian issue has been preoccupying him much more than the agreement with the Palestinians, relations with the Arab world and even his relationship with the American administration. When Netanyahu compares the Tehran regime to the Nazi regime and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Adolf Hitler, he really means it.

Barak, in contrast, has said more than once that a nuclear Iran may constitute a threat, but dismissed attempts to compare this situation with Nazi Germany. The defense minister has even alluded on occasion to Israel's deterrence capability. Nonetheless, due to considerations probably stemming from personality and political calculations, Barak is conveying to those around him that he may support a military operation in Iran.

All this indicates that the Air Force commander's mission will not be simple. He is likely to be subjected to overwhelming pressure to change his evaluations and continue planning the attack. Doubtlessly, Nechushtan finds himself at a decisive position in a critical period. Never, it seems, has an IDF officer been in a position in which his professional recommendation could bring on Israel a disaster of such proportions. We may only hope Nechushtan will rise to the occasion.

קראו כתבה זו בעברית: מפקד חיה"א, המבוגר האחראי