Some time ago we saw in the brilliant television satire, Eretz Nehederet,
Israelis giving up on all their summer plans, “because of that thing that will
happen with Iran this summer.”
“Can I give you a delayed check for this
summer?” says the customer.
“No, of course not,” says the
“Don’t you know what will happen this summer? That thing with
“Oh yes, I forgot it’s this summer!” he replies, and pays
The price this summer may be somewhat higher. The
international media, based on American and Israeli sources, inform us of a
possible Israeli preventive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, after
June, after sanctions and negotiations have been given a chance, before the
“window of immunity” closes. Will we strike?
Only God, Netanyahu and Barak know.
What is certain is that Israel will this summer face, in many areas, a critical
crossroads of historical magnitude, because after summer 2012 come the American
elections, and in their aftermath, Israel will no longer be able to act in
Should the Netanyahu-Barak-Liberman government indeed decide
this summer to attack Iran on its own, against the better advice of most of our
past and present security establishment and of the leader of the free world,
Israel’s strategic position will be harmed, probably for decades to come. I do
believe in the capacity of our army to carry out an effective military strike in
Iran, and delay the Iranian’s nuclear plans, not ambitions, for some
I also do not believe that the decisions should be taken primarily
in relation to the scope of Israeli casualties, that may be very high; but a
country needs to be ready to pay a price, if it is about protecting its national
The problem is, in my view, that if we act militarily on our
own in Iran, we gravely endanger our long term national security, from many
crucial perspectives: - We will, for decades, become the arch-enemy of Iran,
under any regime, with an obsession for vengeance, possibly expressed through
terror and easily acquired nuclear arms from any possible Muslim
• We will have turned the Muslim world against us. Most of the
Muslim countries and societies are today opposed to Tehran’s Shi’ite clerics’
regional ambitions. But a humiliation at the hands of the Jewish state,
would most probably create a coalition of firm solidarity against Israel, and as
Meir Dagan warns, turn the regional conflict into a religious one.
Arab world, in case of war, will give up for the years to come on any possible
peaceful engagement or negotiations with Israel, returning to the view that the
Palestinian cause can be dealt with by violence only.
• The international
community, primarily the European Union, will blame Israel for having brought
the world to the brink of World War III, thus endangering our trade and defense
relations with countries like Germany, France and the United Kingdom.
We would greatly embarrass the Obama administration, that has developed the
strongest and best defense relations with Israel of any administration, while
damaging its global and regional interests. Not a single Arab or Muslim will
indeed believe that Israel really acted on its own. The United States, no matter
the administration, and especially now with what seems as a likely Obama
reelection in 2012, does not forgive when its strategic global interests are
In short, in my view a unilateral Israeli strike against Iran,
will mostly weaken, in fact dramatically endanger our national security. This
may not be a popular position, but we are at a moment that obliges honest
assessment. The alternative is also not risk free – it is to follow the
American lead, in its diplomatic and economic efforts to prevent Iran from
developing military nuclear capacity.
Yet we will have the world, and the
United States, on our side – deterring Iran with major economic and military
means. I happen to believe that most of our leaders understand this equation and
what is at stake. Most but not all. It seems there is one with a messianic view
of saving Israel from a “second holocaust”; the other an adventurous commando
who believes that power, creatively applied, can solve anything. Yet they are
not a Messiah, nor a James Bond, they are merely two mediocre present and past
prime ministers, confronted by a monumental crossroads.
How should then
summer 2012 play out? I would like it to be a summer of coalition, not
collision. I support three such coalitions:
• A United States led global
coalition against Iran, in which Israel is a player. Fully coordinated
with the Obama administration; engaged in crippling economic sanctions and
creative diplomacy in the 5+1 negotiations with Iran, with the aim to transform
the Iranian nuclear ambition into a civilian one. While for such a
coalition, all options remain on the table.
• A government led coalition
in the Middle East – made possible by Israel and the Palestinians finally
engaging in a viable, sustainable peace process, according to the Obama vision
of a two-state solution based on the 1967 lines, and a mutual halt to unilateral
activities (Palestinian actions in the UN, and Israeli settlement expansion). In
this manner we will bring the Arab world closer to us, at a critical time of
shifting sands in the region, as well as vis-a-vis Iran.
• A peoples’
coalition in the region, that is advanced by young people and social
revolutions, be it Tahrir, Yasmin or Rothschild. It is reasonable to
forecast that we will see this summer a reawakening of the Israeli protest
movement in the streets of our cities. This year, Daphni, Stav and co. need to
comprehend and express that there is no social justice without peace. Funds will
have to move with time from settlements and their security, to social equality.
In this respect, it is high-time for Tahrir and Rothschild to meet, to engage in
a social network dialogue between the young change agents in Israel, Palestine,
Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and elsewhere, as is happening on the YaLa – Young
Leaders, Facebook-based movement.
So, the summer of 2012 could very well
be a doomsday summer, or a turning point towards coalition building in favor of
security, peace and economy.
Israel should continue to insist on its
self-reliance, but understand that in today’s world, strength and progress are
achieved through coalitions, and harm is inflicted in isolation. Drawing on
these conclusions could mean “that thing” which will happen this summer may be a
positive strategic turning point.
The writer is president of the Peres
Center for Peace and served as Israel’s chief negotiator for the Oslo Accords.