It's all up to the IDF chief
All the weight of the decision over whether or not to attack Iran has been placed on the narrow shoulders of a single army officer, IDF chief Benny Gantz.
So when do we reach the moment of truth? Have Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who until now have been threatening the world with an Israeli strike on Iran to spur the international community into action, started to believe their own threats and the need to implement them? Army people who are likely to be involved are walking around like they're carrying a heavy burden.
Time is short. Netanyahu and Barak believe that a strike must take place before the U.S. presidential election in November, and one has to wait a few weeks to at least appear to be giving the new sanctions imposed on Iran earlier this month a chance to work. Therefore, the narrow window of opportunity lies between August and October.
The cabinet - which observers believe nearly always has a majority to support an attack - will only be convened right before the strike to prevent leaks. Both Netanyahu and Barak know there are several people prepared to lie on the tracks to prevent an unnecessary war. First among them is President Shimon Peres, who is liable to go as far as informing the White House if he knew in advance about an attack. In the public arena, there are Meir Dagan, Yuval Diskin and maybe even Gabi Ashkenazi, who will put aside for a moment the Harpaz report considerations to halt the approaching disaster.
But the truly key person, the one who has the power to stymie this foolishness, is the Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz. The State of Israel cannot go to war without the support of the chief of staff, and Gantz, whether by direct confrontation or by dragging his feet, will stand between us and the "only 500 dead," promised by Ehud Barak.
The burden that has been placed on the shoulders of this pleasant man, who so dislikes personal confrontations, is visible on him. The Mossad head, the head of military intelligence and the Israel Air Force commander don't have the same ability to block Netanyahu and Barak's crazy vision, even though all three oppose it.
Gantz, who will soon be completing half of his term, still doesn't have the aura of authority that his predecessor, Ashkenazi, had, but he does have an accurate moral compass. He has avoided confrontation with Barak over promotions to general's rank and the appointment of the IDF chief prosecutor, and might even capitulate over the appointment of the deputy chief of staff. But he knows that an attack on Iran and the war that would follow is a totally different matter.
In this fateful debate, every word he says will carry significant weight. Gantz will not be able to act like a waiter presenting the different courses on the menu and the price of each offering. On this issue he will have to point to what he believes is the proper course of action, which doesn't include an attack right now on Iran.
Gantz is familiar with the widespread assessment that an attack will not only not scuttle the Iranian bomb project, it is liable to intensify the pace of its development. Israel will be dragged into a painful war, which will not defeat it but will paralyze it and deliver a critical blow to the home front, after which Israeli society may be irrevocably changed. It will be a war that is liable to lead many Israelis to reconsider their future in this place.
Israel will not be defeated by a conflict with Hezbollah, Iran and maybe even Syria, nor will it be destroyed. But when the smoke clears and we understand that this war wasn't necessary and didn't even achieve its objective, it will be hard to accept, even if there are fewer than 500 dead.
All the weight of this decision has been placed on the narrow shoulders of a single army officer.