The sweeping opposition by heads of the defense establishment to attacking Iran before the American presidential elections stems from a secret. The details of this secret are now being expressed privately by Israel's leaders. Does this expression - at least in the case of Defense Minister Ehud Barak - come from a desire that the senselessness of these ideas will help thwart them? Perhaps. Let's hope so.
Whatever the case may be, this is how things are. In private talks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Barak reiterate the logic behind going to war against Iran at this time. They claim that the aim of conducting a war now is to drag the United States into it, contrary to the Americans' wishes.
The logic is simple. According to Netanyahu and Barak, Israel has the military power to delay Iran's nuclear project by only one year. This is the up-to-date estimate based on operations research by the body in charge of the matter in Israel: the air force. There is no significance to a delay of that length. There is, however, a force that can stop the Iranian project militarily: the United States. The problem, Netanyahu says, is that the U.S. administration is not willing to do so.
The solution is simple. A moment before the U.S. presidential elections, when Mitt Romney - the candidate of Netanyahu's patron, Sheldon Adelson - is breathing down Barack Obama's neck, and in the wake of the large number of casualties and the extensive damage that the Iranian response is likely to cause in the region and particularly in Israel, the American president will have no choice but to order his armed forces to join in the war.
Netanyahu is gambling that if Obama does not do so, he will lose the elections. Then Romney will replace him and, as a token of gratitude, will complete the military work. And if the gamble fails? For that there is no backup plan.
It is imperative to understand the substance of the gamble. There are two discipline when it comes to Israeli security.The main one, the Ben-Gurion discipline, which becomes the Rabin discipline in the case of Iran. The main conviction of tthis discipline is that, when it comes to strategic moves, it is essential to have a real treaty and support from a superpower. One does everything for those ends. No gamble can be taken without them.
There is also an additional, rarer disciplne: "the rotten business" school. Its main belief is that it is possible to force a superpower into moves through a violent conspiracy. That is the way in which undercover Israeli terrorist attacks against American targets were carried out in Egypt in the 1950s, in the hope of forcing the Americans to attack Egypt - an affair that came to be known as "the rotten business."
The stakes in the present gamble are much higher. Making an attack on Iran right now means betting all of our chips. And we are not referring to an independent Israeli action. What we are referring to is the exact opposite. Adelson's billions and campaigns were destined for this moment: dragging America into a war to save Israel. Indeed, Netanyahu succeeded in this fashion to curb U.S. pressure on Israel to negotiate for peace. But dragging America into a war in a way that echoes convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard and the Protocols of Zion belongs on a different planet.
These things have to be stated clearly. No leadership in Israel has the right to send the Israel Defense Forces to war and to endanger tens of thousands of citizens and soldiers when it does not have the power to win the war with its own forces. No person has the authority to gamble in this way with the lives of Israelis. Involving America in a war can only be done with prior agreement and by means of a moderate policy that will make this possible. A leadership that has failed to achieve that cannot gamble on the notion that it will be able to drag the United States into the war if enough Israeli lives are sacrificed.
During the unnecessary battle over the Mitla Pass during the Sinai Campaign of 1956, Yehuda Kan Dror was sent on a suicide mission to locate the sources of Egyptian fire which would surely kill him. Now tens of thousands of people are supposed to serve as a target for the fire that might perhaps drag the Americans into a war and perhaps even cause a change in the American government. An order of that kind is the most imbecilic of orders. Israel's army and citizens are not Yehuda Kan Dror under a single leader. Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and the senior officers do not have the "possibility" of not carrying out this blackest of orders - they have the duty not to carry it out. The original "rotten business" pales when compared with the conspiracy that is embodied here. It is forbidden to give an order of this kind. It is forbidden to carry it out.
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