In about two months, Netanyahu will have to persuade a dovish president to force a hawkish position on a defense establishment that does not want it.
If Israel is going to attack Iran in the next two years, it must take the following possible developments into account: The attack will fail. The attack will succeed in part and delay the Iranian nuclear program only somewhat. The attack will succeed but lead to a harsh counterstrike. The attack will ignite an unending Iranian-Israeli war. The attack will cause Israel's allies to break off their alliance with it. The attack will lead to worldwide condemnation of Israel that will isolate it and turn it into an international pariah.
If Israel does not attack Iran over the next two years, it must take into account other possible developments: A nuclear Iran could become a regional power that will tip the scales in the struggle between extremists and moderates in the Middle East. A nuclear Iran that controls the energy routes could gain enough power to squeeze Europe, Russia, China and even the United States. A nuclear Iran could erode Israeli deterrence and initiate serious and ongoing confrontations in the south and north. A nuclear Iran and the terror groups it supports will cast a pall of fear over many Israelis.
In about two months, Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu will meet U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House. That meeting will be fateful. It alone can extricate Israel from the trap of a bomb or a bombing. However, the meeting will be difficult. Netanyahu will have to persuade a dovish president to force a hawkish position on a defense establishment that does not want it.
An Israeli conservative will try to convince an American Democratic president to act in the Iranian crisis the way John F. Kennedy did during the Cuban missile crisis. If Netanyahu succeeds, the West will be able to overcome the worst danger it has faced since the Cold War. If he fails, Israel will face the most difficult dilemma in its history.
Many mock Netanyahu because he compares the Iranian threat to the threat of 1948. The mockers are wrong. True, Iran will be in no hurry for a nuclear strike against Israel. A nuclear Iran will not necessarily generate apocalypse now. However, if Iran becomes as strong as France, it will create new strategic circumstances in which Israel will find it hard to survive for long. But if Israel acts hastily, it could expose itself to unprecedented risks. That is why the challenge in the run-up to 2010 - the year the Israeli intelligence community believes Iran will have enough fissionable material to make a bomb - is so great. Resolution 2010 is an existential one.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni decided not to take part in Resolution 2010. She preferred political interests over national ones. But Livni is not alone. The mainstream is behind her. The mainstream of the Israeli elite insists on ignoring what is happening. That same historical blindness that afflicted us between the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War is striking us again. That same discourse disassociated from reality that characterized us between Oslo and Camp David is doing so again. Denial reigns.
Even the statement by the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff that Iran has enough fissionable material for a first bomb has been swallowed up in the tumult. At a time when we need unity, seriousness and to focus our efforts, politics and the media are bogged down in foolishness. Just as Israel overcame in 1948, it will do so in 2010.
Just as the victory in 1948 emerged from a series of correct decisions David Ben-Gurion made in 1946 and 1947, so it is now. Israel's future depends on making wise, precise and courageous decisions. Livni decided that the person to make those decisions would be Netanyahu; this week she herself crowned him man of the hour. The Kadima chairwoman has thus forced Israelis to stand behind Bibi, who is about to take on a task of Ben-Gurionesque proportions.
Resolution 2010 must be the right one. If we make a mistake this time, we will not be able to correct it in the future. History will not knock at our door again. The time has come to emerge from denial, open our eyes and see the iceberg. If we continue to party on the deck to the sounds of political consultant Eyal Arad's orchestra, a collision with the iceberg is certain. But if we get a hold of ourselves and turn the rudder, we can still avoid disaster.