These days, with the country’s leaders straining our nerves, it’s hard not to recall the immortal words of Eli Wallach in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”: “If you have to shoot, shoot, don’t talk.”
Take, for example, Efraim Halevy, the former Mossad chief, who declared that if he were an Iranian he would be very fearful of the next 12 weeks. What’s that about? Is it information? A slip of the tongue? Another former Mossad head, Shabtai Shavit, gets a lead headline with two words: “Goraleinu beyadeinu.” (“Our fate is in our hands.”) Really?
Of the country’s ruling duo, one aspires to be Ben-Gurion, the other wants to be Churchill. But in contrast to the giants of the past, the present hesitant leaders are sharing with the public like in the city square of ancient Athens. There is not a home in which “the threat of the Iranian nuclear project” is not brought up at the table. People don’t want to get gas masks, because they don’t believe that accessory will protect them against the Iranian threat, as it is being portrayed in the horrific scenario envisaged by the country’s leaders. They would rather renew their passports.
Barak, whose identity was exposed in an off-the-record conversation thanks to a grand piano, gave some columnists the impression that he does not really want to attack Iran. Meanwhile, Bibi wants to prevent the manufacture of the Iranian bomb by force.
Bibi maintains that the global sanctions against Iran are too slow for his taste. His ambition is to arrive at the next election as a winner. For the prime minister has yet to do anything that will enter the history books. He had more accomplishments as finance minister than as the nation’s leader.
The fact is that Israel can scratch the Iranian nuclear project only where it is accessible, at the price of revenge on the home front. The major nuclear systems are scattered in places that are hard to reach. If we want to deal with these installations, it will mean a protracted war with Hezbollah as well and with the whole hostile Shi’ite surroundings.
Anyone who thinks the United States will join in a strike that we initiate is taking an irresponsible risk. The White House is warning us unequivocally: Do not act without our consent. The New York Times wrote this week that the Israeli discourse on Iran is irresponsible. The talks that the big powers are holding with Tehran have a better chance if Bibi and Barak drop the militant tone. It is true America has tools to cause strategic damage to Iran, but Obama will go to war only if it’s in the interests of the United States − not to save Israel that went to war without American consent.
The Council for Peace and Security this week published an ad stating that an attack without the support of the United States is an ill-considered risk that is liable to have grave consequences for Israel’s defense and diplomatic ties. On top of this is the Israel Defense Force’s opposition to an attack without American agreement or partnership. We do not now have a leader who is the equivalent of Ben-Gurion and is capable of forcing his will on the army. After him, the mutual trust between the army and the prime ministers was essential for the success of military actions. For example, the bombing of the reactors in Iraq and Syria.
If we had attacked a year or two ago, would we have had greater success? Maybe. Now Bibi is in a trap: He missed his chance. The IDF is right in saying that Bibi and Barak did not create the diplomatic space for a surgical strike.
It is not only the army that is opposed in the current circumstances; all the retired IDF chiefs of staff (except Barak) share the objections to an attack on Iran, as does the U.S. chief of staff. It is no simple matter to impose on the army an operation it does not believe in.
The leaks from Bibi’s circle suggest that he will force the army to act. But knowing Barak, when he calms us by saying that no more than 500 will be killed on the home front, he means “only” 200 but prefers that the Americans do the job. He has no desire to face a state commission of inquiry at the end of his career.
Israel is currently in a regrettable state of affairs. This is especially true of the public, which is being driven crazy by contradictory statements. Matan Vilnai, the former home front minister, fled to China but promised to return on the day the war starts. Ahh, what a relief.
A senior NATO officer warns that the price of an attack on Iran will be too high. Escalating rhetoric not only bugs the Americans but is driving the people of Israel up the wall. All that remains to say here is: In God’s name, shut your traps!
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