The Bombers Took Off at Dawn

His thoughts lead one to believe that the idea is to ensure that the decision-making process not be left to one person, irrespective of his seniority, but rather that a small group of functionaries from both the political and professional spheres be involved in giving the final go-ahead. Each stage before the moment of truth will be carefully weighed and the green light to attack cannot be implemented on the ground without input from a number of officials.

None of what has been described thus far has been put into effect recently, as we have seen in the way Israel has responded publicly to the Iranian president's threats to obliterate it and his comments pointing to his country's accelerated efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Israeli threats and warnings of escalation do not project level-headedness and self-control but rather jitteriness and irascibility.

Just to refresh our memories: This past April 7, former defense minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said an Iranian attack on Israel would elicit a response so fierce that it would cause the Iranians' destruction. Two months later, Ben-Eliezer let it be known that Iran would be destroyed if it attacked Israel. Next on the hit parade was Shaul Mofaz, Ben-Eliezer's successor as defense minister and also a former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, who on June 8 declared that an Israeli strike on Iran was inevitable.

As if that were not enough, word of a large-scale exercise by the Israel Air Force over Greece, apparently meant to simulate an attack on targets in Iran, was leaked to The New York Times last month. The low point came with news of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's secret yet widely reported visit to the Dimona nuclear research facility.

Two things are possible: Either these statements and events are unplanned and purely coincidental, or they result from a carefully orchestrated plan to prepare Israel for an existential threat. If the former is valid, then the government's dereliction of duty has reached unprecedented heights regarding a matter considered one of the most sensitive of all affairs of state. If the latter is true, then the formula used to cope with once-in-a-lifetime, dire situations in which a threat to the state's existence casts its shadow is not only haphazardly put together, but also applied in increments that do not adequately meet the challenge of an existential security threat.

In any event, the result is not favorable. On the one hand, the international community appears to be working toward appeasing Iran rather than confronting it. On the other hand, Israel either appears gripped by a sense of extreme panic, or as a country whose position on the Iranian nuclear program is based on a bluff ("If you don't hold me back, I'm going to attack"). The government's conduct on this matter makes us yearn for an approach espoused by former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevi, who last October said: "The Iranian threat is significant but it's not existential. The State of Israel is not in danger of destruction."

Israel's interest is to frustrate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's plans to portray it as the only pretext giving his country the right to nuclear weapons. An Iranian bomb threatens the Gulf States more than it does Israel, and it is a danger to world peace and global stability more so than to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Israel must take steps to prompt the American president to enlist the international community in an effort to stop uranium enrichment in Iranian facilities.

Israel mustn't, however, put the U.S. in a position as the only friend who will stand by its side in the event of an attack by Tehran. In any event, an impressive fleet of fighter jets capable of traveling 1,500 kilometers eastward to carry out a preemptive strike looks less relevant to Israel's interests than correctly handling a far more sensitive issue: the Palestinians. Before bombing Iran, it would be best to solve the conflict with the Palestinians. By the way, there does appear to be a link between the two threats.