Netanyahu's 'Catastrophe Law' Prevents an Iran Strike

The politician understands that in order to prevent a future catastrophe, he must generate a small crisis immediately.

To survive in our political jungle, we must stick to a number of fundamental rules or laws. One of the more obvious ones is the "catastrophe law," which states that a politician will never act to prevent a future catastrophe, even if he is certain it is impending.

The reason he won't prevent it is not because he is evil or indifferent, but because the public would not appreciate it. The politician understands that in order to prevent a future catastrophe, he must generate a small crisis immediately. But the moment he creates the small crisis, the entire public will blame him for the unpleasant consequences. He will be declared a failure and one who panics easily, and will pay a heavy political price. Nobody will give him credit for preventing a catastrophe because no catastrophe took place.

Before examining the Iranian situation vis-a-vis the catastrophe law, here are two examples to prove it, one economic and the other military. The economic example pertains to the banking crisis of 1983. Yaakov Gadish, the treasury budgets commissioner, realized back in 1981 that the banks' share manipulation needed to be stopped. Gadish told then Finance Minister Yoram Aridor that the share manipulation must be stopped because that huge balloon would blow up one day and bring the whole economy down with it.

Aridor said fine, but first get the bankers' agreement to an orderly cessation of the manipulation. Gadish spoke to the bankers, but not all of them consented. He returned to Aridor and insisted that the treasury halt the manipulation unilaterally. But Aridor wasn't too keen. Being all too familiar with the catastrophe law, he knew that if he stopped the manipulation by himself, the bankers and public would accuse him of killing the goose that laid the golden eggs and made us all rich (on paper ). Nobody would credit him with preventing a catastrophe, which indeed came two years later in October 1983.

The military example regards the Yom Kippur War. Imagine if Golda Meir had come to her senses and ordered a preemptive strike on the Egyptian and Syrian armies in October 1973. Most of the public (and the whole world ) would have condemned her for warmongering. They would have claimed the other side was only conducting a drill and she, gripped by hysteria, had caused an unnecessary war in which dozens of soldiers had died. Who would have understood, let alone accepted, that by so doing, Golda would have prevented the Yom Kippur War and its 2,569 IDF fatalities?

Now for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Iran. If Netanyahu strikes Iran, he will break the catastrophe law, because he will be creating a small crisis to prevent a future catastrophe. The missiles expected to fall on Tel Aviv are nothing compared to the danger of Iran's nuclear missiles. And all this is even before the significant change expected to occur in Israel's strategic situation with regard to Syria and Hezbollah in the north and Islamic Jihad in the south, at the moment Iran turns into a nuclear power.

Some argue against attacking Iran, because it is impossible to know if the strike will destroy Iran's nuclear capability, especially since it is not certain whether Iran will attack Israel when it has nuclear weapons. They err in understanding their leaders' responsibilities. The leaders' entire role should be to assess the risks involved in dire future scenarios in an uncertain world. If they find that a future catastrophe which will cause enormous damage is possible, it is their duty to act now - even if the probability is low. Sometimes a leader must initiate a small war in order to prevent a big catastrophe in the future. That is precisely what his duty is.

The easiest thing is to frighten the public by discussing all the risks involved in an attack on Iran, without mentioning the consequences of not carrying out such an attack. For example, was then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert right to attack (according to foreign sources ) a nuclear facility in Syria in 2007? He too took a huge risk.

All this does not mean Israel should attack Iran now. In any case, the chances of that happening are slim, simply because Netanyahu knows the catastrophe law all too well.

Read this article in Hebrew.