Opinion

Apparently There Are Sane People in Tehran

The last two weeks have seen unprecedented fighting between Israel and Iran, yet there have been no real Israeli causalities. Odeh Bisharat questions why

Iranian protestors chant slogans during an anti-U.S. gathering after their Friday prayer in Tehran, Iran, Friday, May 11, 2018.
Vahid Salemi/AP

“Why bomb at night? We want to see it,” a resident of Syria or Lebanon complains to a television station. “At night, it’s just a nuisance.” I agree. The drizzle, and then the torrent, of air strikes against the Iranians in Syria in the past few weeks were all in the middle of the night, as if they were only meant for spoiled Tel Aviv clubbers, as if the rest of us in Israel, who earn our livings by the sweat of our brows during the day, were deprived of these marvelous sights. And by the way, Netanyahu should note that many people in the country vote Likud.

So, were the events of these tumultuous nights a dream or reality? Iran is attacked, thoroughly humiliated, and it doesn’t respond. And when it did react, if it indeed did so — Iran claims it didn’t respond — the response only humiliated it further: Of 20 missiles that were fired, according to Israeli media outlets, 16 fell in Syrian territory (what amazing precision) and four were intercepted.

Is this really Iran, the mother of Hezbollah, the latter of which according to Israeli experts has tens of thousands of rockets in its arsenal? We’ve been busy preparing for ages now — first preparing the home front, then preparing for an attack, then preparing for heaven knows what. And now, after a few nighttime attacks outside of working hours, Iran is no longer in Syria? One can only rub one’s eyes in disbelief.

Ehud Barak, the previous defense minister, predicted that if Israel ever attacked Iran’s nuclear reactors, only 500 or so Israelis would be killed in the Iranian missile strikes that would surely follow. A reasonable number, according to a couple of experts for whom fatalities are a matter of statistics. Meanwhile, in the latest military operations, not a single Israeli soldier or civilian suffered even a scratch. By Barak’s calculations, a few dozen Israelis should have been killed.

We can only conclude that, as a result of the responsible conduct of the benighted, but sane, supreme religious leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and reformist Iranian President Hassan Rohani, the favorite punching bag of detractors both foreign and domestic — who resisted the temptation to react and therefore etch the price of arrogance into the consciousness of Israel’s leaders — dozens of Israelis will continue to enjoy the fine spring weather. They will continue to be able to work and love, and some of them, inshallah, will bring children into a world with a brighter future.

There are two possible conclusions to draw from the past two weeks of arrogance on a scale unprecedented here since 1967. One is that Iranians are not such terrible monsters, that they’ve merely learned to bluster and threaten like the Arabs, while at the moment of truth, their browbeating melts away like soap bubbles. Look at June 1967, when the Arabs roared about invading Tel Aviv and Haifa, and six days later the Israelis were threatening Damascus and Cairo.

The other option is that there are sane people in Tehran, who in contradiction to their dark rhetoric, do not in fact want to drag their citizens into additional wars. The war with Iraq in the 1980s, it should be noted, was forced on Iran.

If we were to lift our heads above the water, we would discover a new world: Europe is disengaging from the United States and standing with Iran on the path of negotiations to curb the nuclear threat. Ranged against them are the United States, together with its Israeli ally and the corrupt oil regimes, on the path of escalation and even war, which would cost barely 500 Israelis their lives — a bargain, really.

In this new alignment of forces, Russian President Vladimir Putin will side with the Americans and will be on the lookout for a chunk of the Middle East. Later on, the Americans, who are already showing signs of Mideast fatigue, will exit, leaving Israel alone with the amiable U.S. ambassador, David Friedman. And if Israel wants assistance, President Donald Trump will berate it, as he berates his Gulf-state partners: Pay up!

Israel will have no choice but to woo the Palestinians, Israel’s only ticket of admission into the Middle East club. As it says in the Book of Psalms: “The stone which the builders rejected is become the chief corner-stone.”