Thanks to Netanyahu's babble, an attack on Iran will inflame global anti-Semitism
The State of Israel, which was established as a haven for Jews from those who hate it, may instead wind up becoming a threat to Jews.
The murderer who shot students in a Jewish school in Toulouse yesterday, like the one who shot black-skinned French paratroopers a few days earlier, required no motive other than hatred of foreigners and those who are different. Chronic sufferers from anti-Semitism and xenophobia need no special pretexts for their racism.
Nevertheless, an Israeli attack on Iran that sent gas prices soaring would be seized by by right-wing extremists like those who support Marine Le Pen. Thanks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's babble in Washington, even if the United States is the one that ultimately attacks Iran's nuclear reactors, the bill will (also) be submitted to Jewish communities abroad. The State of Israel, which was established as a haven for Jews from those who hate it, may instead wind up becoming a threat to Jews.
What do you do when the polls show that a solid majority of Israelis refuse to risk being among the 500 casualties of retaliatory Iranian missile strikes on which Defense Minister Ehud Barak is prepared to gamble? The Prime Minister's Office takes comfort in polls showing increasing American support for military action against Iran. Netanyahu's spokesmen managed to sell this dramatic headline to several important media outlets as a personal accomplishment by their boss.
Indeed, a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll published the day after Netanyahu's address to the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC showed that 52 percent of Americans favored a military strike on Iran if the only other option were standing idly by. But when the respondents were presented with a larger range of options, a completely different picture emerged.
Fully 49 percent said the United States should either "take no action unless Iran attacks the U.S. or its allies" or "take stronger diplomatic and economic action to put pressure on Iran but should take no military action." Only 21 percent supported direct military action to destroy Iran's ability to develop nuclear weapons, while 26 percent responded that America should support an Israeli attack. The Wall Street Journal chose to headline the report on the poll with the unequivocal statement, "Americans Prefer Diplomacy Over Military Action To Prevent Iran From Acquiring Nukes."
American Jewish peace activists say the poll also reflects the prevailing mood in the Jewish community. They advise us not to be led astray by AIPAC's enthusiastic response to Netanyahu's calls for war, and propose that we instead heed the voices emerging from the J Street Conference that will take place this week in Washington.
This young pro-peace organization is warning about the effect of efforts by Netanyahu and his conservative friends in the Jewish community to drag President Barack Obama into a new war in the Middle East. J Street leaders support Obama's policy of sanctions and diplomacy. But the American president - like the Israeli president, not to mention the Israeli prime minister, all of whom lined up to speak at the AIPAC conference - is shunning the conference of an organization that seeks to promote negotiations on a two-state solution and even protested the Palestinians' application for UN recognition as a state. If they had just one billionaire like Sheldon Adelson on their list of donors, everything might look different.
Stop sowing panic
For over four years, an eye-opening position paper on the Iranian nuclear threat has been on the desk of senior defense officials and politicians. The paper was written by Maj. Gen. (ret. ) Herzl Shafir, a former head of the Israel Defense Forces' headquarters, GOC Southern Command and police commissioner. In recent years, Shafir has served as a consultant to the defense establishment on home front issues.
Following Netanyahu's aggressive speech in the Knesset last week, in which he recalled times when Israeli leaders defied American positions, Shafir updated the document and decided to increase its circulation. Here are the document's main points:
* Declarations that Israel is weighing a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities help the government in Tehran convince its citizens that nuclear development should continue despite the sanctions and threats, in order to deter the Israeli and American aggressors. Israel must therefore stop threatening. Instead, it should make it clear to Iran's citizens that it is not an enemy, remind them of the good old days when it helped Iran, and demonstrate a sincere desire to open a different kind of dialogue.
* Even though the Iranian leadership makes no secret of its wish that Israel would disappear from the map, there has never been a direct Iranian threat to use force or nuclear weapons. Iran's primary reasons for wanting nuclear weapons are to achieve regional military and diplomatic hegemony, to protect the regime against external threats, and to establish a balance of fear with other countries in the region that possess nuclear weapons.
In July 2008, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responded to the question of whether Iran would destroy Israel by saying, "Iran will not act militarily ... The Zionist regime in Israel will bring itself down in the end." When asked if he would support a two-state solution, he said, "If the Palestinians accept this, legally and of their own free choice, we will respect their decision."
* A military attack would turn Iran into Israel's permanent enemy. In the current era of the Arab Spring and regional uncertainty, this might alter the strategic balance in the Middle East to Israel's detriment.
* Israel has no way to prevent Iran from retaliating in the Gulf region if its nuclear facilities are attacked. Therefore, Israel must act responsibly and refrain from an independent attack. It also shouldn't contribute to an American attack. Only the United States is capable of paralyzing Iran's ability to inflict punishment on Israeli civilians in response to an attack on its nuclear facilities.