The decision on an Israeli military operation against Iranian nuclear targets is supposed to be made by a small group of ministers whose number has changed throughout this government's tenure - seven, eight, nine and now eight again. The decision requires the approval of the Ministerial Committee on Security Affairs and perhaps the consent of the entire government as well, all according to the interpretation of the clause in the Basic Law on the Government, which deals with the declaration of war.
The producers of the operation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, have been unable to pass the first hurdle of attaining a majority in favor of their position among the eight senior ministers, the octet. Perhaps this is because professionals in the defense establishment object to their claims. Not being able to move ahead with a frontal campaign, Netanyahu and Barak have moved to outflank the octet. Instead of the small number of eight, they have gone to the large number of seven - seven million Israeli citizens (including more than a million Arabs ), over whom two dangers hang: Iranian nuclear weapons, and a war resulting from an operation against those weapons, with the uncertain public unable to decide which danger is more serious.
In their campaign to enlist the public, through the media, Netanyahu and Barak are trying to generate a wave of sympathy for their position, so that they can bring hesitant ministers to their side and claim, in answer to critics at home and abroad, that the Barak-Netanyahu line reflects the will of the people.
The goal might be democratic, but the method is demagogic. There is no real difference of opinion between the public and its leadership when it comes to determination not to live in the shadow of Iranian nuclear weapons as long as the regime in Iran is extremist and openly seeks Israel's destruction. The question is not "acquiescence or war," but rather whether all other means have been exhausted, leaving no choice but to attack soon, on the eve of U.S. presidential elections.
This and only this is the core of the debate now. The information Barak and Netanyahu are releasing, either themselves or through transparent proxies, is confusing the issue. Iran will not attain nuclear weapons in the coming year, and while taking action against it might be imperative in the future, it is not an urgent necessity. Netanyahu has talked for years about 1938 but was proven wrong; 1939 has not yet come.
Iranian nuclear weapons are dangerous for Israel. Demagoguery is just as dangerous.
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