Are you for or against an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities? This has
become a key question for public debate in Israel, and typically, almost
everyone has a strong opinion one way or another.
It is a decision that
should be discussed behind closed doors, and one that needs to be made by the
prime minister and his government – not the public. It has, however, become a
source of speculation on radio and television programs, and fills the pages of
the country’s newspapers.
Few can escape the often interesting media
leaks and enticing statements by current and former diplomatic and security
officials. Take, for example, the statement by former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy
to The New York Times
“If I were an Iranian, I would be very
fearful of the next 12 weeks,” Halevy said, fueling speculation of an imminent
strike. The context of the quotation was a Times report that some American
officials believe Israel might attack Iran this year.
example is the comment of former Military Intelligence head Maj.-Gen. (res.)
Aharon Ze’evi Farkash
, who said Israel is unlikely to strike Iran right before
the US presidential elections on November 6.
“I think that within this
window, it is difficult to imagine that something will happen a month before
elections,” he told Jerusalem Post military correspondent Yaakov Katz.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was reported to have again asked Israeli
leaders during his visit last week not to attack Iran. Panetta reportedly shared
with Israel a US contingency plan to hit Iran if international talks and
In the same vein, Michele Flournoy – a former US
undersecretary of defense for policy – told the Post that Israel can rely on
Barack Obama to stop a nuclear Iran.
A few days earlier, Republican
presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s adviser, Dan Senor
, told reporters that
Romney would back an Israeli strike on Iran. But the candidate himself was
careful not to repeat this in his own words, saying only that Israel has the
right to defend itself.
After Israeli press reports quoting senior
security officials opposing an attack on Iran at this time, Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu declared that the decision would be ultimately made by him
and his government – and not by the defense establishment.
At the same
time, Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz stressed that the IDF is ready to take
if ordered to do so by the government.
Former US defense secretary
Donald Rumsfeld joined the fray this weekend in an interview with Fox News,
saying he agreed with Netanyahu that sanctions weren’t proving
He also rejected claims from detractors that an Israeli
military move against Iran would not have a lasting impact on its nuclear
“I don’t think that Israel has to destroy all of Iran’s nuclear
capability,” said Rumsfeld. “Iran is a sophisticated country. They have deeply
buried sites. And I’m sure the Israelis know precisely what they currently have.
All the Israelis need to do is delay them.”
So what are we to make of
this very public discourse on Iran? Is it all a brilliant bluff, or is an
Israeli strike a real option? While just a few people may know the answer, the
irony is that international negotiations and sanctions on Iran can be effective
only if there is a credible military threat, as Netanyahu has said
But if they don’t work, will Netanyahu follow through on the
threat and give the green light for an attack? Whatever the answer to that
question is, it is clear that Israelis should brace themselves for the
possibility, but not panic or feed hysteria in others. They should follow
reports in the media, and listen carefully to Israeli leaders, top IDF officers
and, yes, to opposition figures, former officials and experts too.
threats from Iran, Syria, Gaza and elsewhere, Israelis should upgrade their gas
, if they haven’t already, and make sure there are safe rooms and shelters
in their homes and neighborhoods. They should also take extra safety precautions
when traveling abroad.
Above all, let’s not disrupt our normal lives, not
give in to fear-mongers, and not allow threats by Iranian leaders to scare us.
There is nothing new in last week’s call by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to
annihilate Israel, just another reason to take him seriously.
our leaders to make the right decisions when it comes to issues as crucial and
complex as Iran, and let’s come together as a nation to support them. We are
divided enough on so many things; when it come to existential threats, let’s
stick together and present a united front.