Living Forever by Bombardment

The dread of the implications of an attack on Iran may be exaggerated. We might succeed again. And what if we do not? But then again, what if we do?

Click here for more articles by Gideon Levy

So what is the "great plan"? As things look now, this is the way Israel is planning its future: Every time some Middle Eastern country tries to obtain nuclear weapons, Israel will bomb it. Bomb - and bombard. Beyond the problematic assumption that we are allowed to do what others are not allowed, and what is secure in our hands is dangerous in the hands of others, this kind of conduct will lead to disaster. We tried twice, in Iraq and in Syria, and it worked; it is doubtful it was essential.

Now it seems we are going to try a third time against Iran. It may even be successful, but nothing lasts forever. It will end in catastrophe. From bombardment to bombardment, that is not the way for Israel to establish itself in the Middle East in the long term. But no one discusses the long term beyond tomorrow.

We could and should now discuss the chances, and especially the risks, of an attack on Iran. We usually hold such a discussion, if at all, under impossible conditions: either retrospectively, when it is too late, lacking information or after receiving disinformation. Those in on the secrets are also the ones to make the decision. But those in on secrets always lean in a belligerent direction; war is the only doctrine and craft they know. So it is very dangerous to depend solely on them.

We could and should now consider an attack on Iran, but not only by consulting our own security experts. We should, for example, also listen to the impressive and knowledgeable Hans Blix, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who had reasonable things to say in an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth; things that are missing from our warped public discourse. Blix warned that if Israel acts against Iran the whole region will go up in flames, that Syria's nuclear capabilities are primitive, that the attack on the reactor in Iraq was unnecessary, and above all, that the government in Iran can be made to give up the bomb, but not by force.

The Swedish diplomat believes that if the international community offers guarantees of Iran's security and accepts it as a member in good standing as was done with North Korea, perhaps there will be no bomb. This has not been tried. The international community is making do with threats and sanctions that do not deter Iran, and the Israel Air Force is already conducting drills, it is believed, for the next dangerous adventure. The assumption that the window of opportunity is about to close because of the changing of the guard at the White House is distorted: Might not Barack Obama, if elected, talk to Iran and prevent it from developing the bomb without bombardment? Could anything be better?

But talking about an action against Iran is not our main problem. For or against bombardment, Israel never thinks in terms of beyond tomorrow. It acts like a person who puts buckets in a house with a leaky roof instead of thoroughly fixing the roof. So we bombard Iran, and even if it is successful and we do not have to pay a heavy price for it - a dubious scenario - what happens then? What will happen when Egypt wants a bomb? Will we bomb again? And Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Iraq? And perhaps Hezbollah has some "dirty bomb" or other? And will we "allow" Turkey to go nuclear? Will we bombard and bombard, and live forever by bombardment?

Israel can fix the holes in the roof only if it seriously tries to be accepted in the region. Such acceptance will be the only guarantee of its existence beyond the next bombardment. A real chance for this was created in the Arab peace initiative that Israel is ignoring in intolerable arrogance. Our national effort continues to be aimed only toward expanding the range of the F-15 and options for in-flight refueling. Nothing has been done in the opposite direction - grounding the planes and refueling diplomatically.

Imagine peace with the Palestinians, the Syrians and most of the Arab world. Would Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dare threaten Israel then, too? On what pretext? Imagine that Israel announces it will not attack Iran until all other means have been exhausted, simultaneously calling on the West to talk to Iran about security guarantees. Does it sound unreal? Will we not contribute more this way to reduce the danger? After all, Iran has so far shown itself to be a rational country, not insane. We refuse to pay the price of peace; we continue to prefer the price of bombardment. But this time the price might be a particularly heavy one.

Israel's pyromania may now have reached the most dangerous point in its history, in the face of Iranian pyromania, just when an alternative track has opened up. The dread of the implications of an attack on Iran may be exaggerated. We might succeed again. And what if we do not? But then again, what if we do?