Still Worried, Just a Little Less

Israel has decreased the extent of the public concern over the Iranian nuclear threat: That is the conclusion to be drawn from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Bar-Ilan speech and from Mossad chief Meir Dagan's remarks to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee yesterday.

Netanyahu has returned to the positions of his predecessors, and placed responsibility for Iran on the international community. Dagan said the Iranian bomb was a significant threat, but only in another five years and only if there were no technical glitches.

If Dagan was speaking forthrightly and not just using the parliamentary platform for a feint, the Iranian bomb has now receded beyond Netanyahu's term in office. The cabinet will not have to decide in the next few months whether to attack Iran. Israeli intelligence assessments are in line with American ones, and this means U.S. President Barack Obama can breathe easy: Netanyahu will not surprise him with an attack on Iran.

In 2006, Dagan said Iran needed at least three years to attain nuclear weapons. I wrote then that this was the "all clear." Then-opposition head Netanyahu remarked to me that it was not an all clear, but a warning - we had three years to stop the Iranians.

The deadline has now been extended for five more years. Perhaps it is a matter of terminology: At the time Dagan spoke of "nuclear capability" without details; yesterday he spoke of an actual bomb. There may also be technical glitches. Delays postpone the existential threat to Israel and give more time for diplomatic action.