Heady times are here again: the press is sniffing drama, soldierly fingers are
itching for triggers, and politicians think they smell glory.
say, has traveled to that end, reached this far, and come this close; Shi’ite
fanatics are awash with anti-Semitism; and Sunni Islamists, from Ankara, through
Homs to Cairo and Tunis – are on the march; and in Europe it’s Munich all over
again; and the vote-thief who leads Iran curses us day in and day out while
denying the Holocaust, tinkering with nukes and saying for the record that we
should not be; it’s Hitler all over again, and the White House is inhabited by a
neo-isolationist; and our wholesale release of convicted murderers has dented
our deterrence; and the weather will soon be unfavorable; and if we don’t act
who will, and if not with the IDF then with what, and if not now when?
that’s indeed it: Time isn’t right. The strategic stakes are too high, the
regional constellation is too explosive, and Israel’s current leaders lack the
moral license with which to embark on this mother of all
PRIME MINISTER Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud
Barak have reportedly been studying the issue closely for a long time, which in
itself is good. The question is whether their delving into tactical details has
not come at the expense of strategic clarity.
The two commando buddies
might be thinking that if they fly this squadron in from the north, and those
two from the south, and at the same time bomb here, and charge there, and in the
interim parachute this brigade in the east, and then, for cover, lead that
platoon just north of it, and meanwhile land that battalion altogether in the
west for diversion – then we will have leveled the enemy’s reactors by late
morning and axed its regime by sunset.
And then, when thousands flood
Teheran’s streets under a blizzard of tickertape chanting “Long Live Israel”
while in Beirut Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and his followers will shrink to a
pinpoint, the whole world will applaud us for having finally handed Islamism a
long-overdue knockout, the one after which the fundamentalist scourge will
finally have been brought to its knees, and by whom – by the Jewish
Well that’s exactly the role we are not meant to play.
STATE of the Jews was established to look after the Jews, not to reshape its
region, let alone the world. This is what Vladimir Jabotinsky inspired with his
Iron Wall doctrine, which said the Zionist movement should adapt a long-term
defensive strategy visà- vis its enemies, and this is what David Ben-Gurion
inspired when he shaped the so-called Periphery Strategy, with which he
cultivated a ring of allies – including Iran – surrounding Israel’s Arab
neighbors, not in order to change Israel’s enemies, but in order to contain
Now much has been said about the immediate risks an Iranian
response would potentially involve, with Tel Aviv being potentially exposed to
protracted missile attacks from Iran, peppered with Lebanese barrages and Gazan
salvos. Yet there is also a long-term risk of sowing an enmity that would
outlive Iran’s Islamist regime.
Israel is marginal in the Middle East, by
any yardstick: economic, religious, ethnic, cultural, certainly numerical.
one thing for us to defend ourselves, and an entirely different thing for us to
reprogram our neighborhood. This is the mistake we made in the merry days of
Oslo, when we tried to impose on the Arabs a New Middle East. We meant well, but
to them our conceited arrival in their midst, if even as statesmen and
investors, constituted intrusion, condescension and domination. It was the
diplomatic flipside of the mistake we had made when we tried to democratize
Lebanon by invading it.
In today’s setting this means that it is one
thing for Israel to target one passing regime’s one program, as it has
reportedly done vis-à-vis Iran’s nuclear program, whether by bugging its
computers, or sabotaging its supplies, or targeting its scientists; it is an
entirely different thing to deal Iran a high-profile blow that will humiliate
any Iranian patriot.
Moreover, a dramatic Israeli attack in Iran would be
portrayed by the ayatollahs as an Israeli-led Western scheme to hijack Iran’s
future. Many Iranians will not believe them, but a critical mass will. Israel
will have been etched in the collective Iranian psyche as a rival, and worse –
an enemy. Yes, today one might wonder how that status can be denied, but the
fact is that the era of Israeli-Iranian harmony lasted about as long as the
Khomeinist era. There is all the reason in the world to seek its return, and to
avoid what might poison it when its time finally comes.
Now anyone who
follows Iran knows that in its cities millions have long lost all respect for
the mullahs and their baggage, and that the economic crisis in Iran is harsh.
With patience, we will live to see the ayatollahs removed by the people, and
their successors embrace with relish anything that to the clerics was anathema,
from Israel to bikinis.
If only for these strategic reasons, Israel
should maintain the Sisyphean struggle to besiege the Iranian regime
diplomatically and economically, and to sabotage its nuclear program from afar,
from within, and from below, while avoiding the cataclysmic military blow that
must be reserved as a weapon of last resort.
FINALLY, THERE are two more
reasons not to bomb Iran. First, with Gaddafi lynched, Assad embattled, Yemen
ablaze, Egyptian Muslims and Christians sparring in the middle of Cairo and
Israel vindicated in its long-standing argument that the root problems of the
Middle East are not about Arabs and Israelis, but about Arabs and Arabs, nothing
could be more foolhardy for Israel right now than to shift the limelight back to
the Jewish state. Bombing Iran will likely provide all the region’s
generalissimos and fundamentalists a cause to unite around, the same artificial
issue in the name of which they neglected their citizenries for decades, as they
focused on muzzling, under-educating and robbing their citizens while feeding
them with hatred for Israel.
Lastly, to bomb Iran the Israeli leaders
ordering it must command a solid political following.
Levi Eshkol went to
the Six Day War in 1967, and Menachem Begin bombed the Iraqi reactor in 1981,
while leading 45-person Knesset factions. Netanyahu won a mere 27 seats, and
Ehud Barak, who won a woeful 13, has since lost eight of them and come to
effectively represent no one but himself. Worse, over the years Barak has lied
to the public so brazenly, whether in posturing as a social crusader only to
emerge as a hedonist arms dealer or in declaring after his defeat in ‘09 that
“the voter said we should go to the opposition” only to then assume his current
job as defense minister, that he has come to epitomize a fraying political
system’s moral bankruptcy.
That kind of leadership could narrowly suffice
for, say, assaulting the flotilla that reached our shores in order to bully us.
But what is now at stake is so much more than that; it is Armageddon, and that’s
well above the Barak- Netanyahu duo’s moral-political