Others can accuse Israel of bringing the world to the edge of disaster over Iran, but not for doing it without discussion.
It''s been going on sporadically for several years, and may be reaching a crescendo.
Israel Hayom dedicated its weekend supplement to the subject, and gave it the headline "Before it will be too late." The lead articles carried the titles, "Bomb or Bombing: Poker with the Cards Close to the Vest," and "The Decision."
On the other side of the political divide, Ha''aretz had one item dealing with the role of an attack on Iran in Netanyahu''s recent political manipulations, and another with the headline, "Netanyahu and Barak Decided, Apparently, in Favor of an Attack on Iran, but Are Not Certain of Implementing their Calculations."
Ma''ariv weighed in with "Did Panetta''s Visit Calm Israel?
The contributions of Yedioth Aharonoth were items warning that attacking Iran would not be like attacking the Iraqi reactor, and that Israel was risking the loss of American backing.
We received more from two former heads of intelligence agencies on the Friday evening discussion programs.
One argued against the image that leading security figures opposed an attack, while Netanyahu and Barak supported it. He said that political and security figures spoke the same language, and were not all that far apart. Two government ministers are former heads of the IDF, while leading security figures have wide perspectives and substantial experience at the peaks of national politics in Israel and the United States. If there are differences in opinion between political and security personnel, they are nuanced and deal with timing rather than support or opposition.
Another talked about an Israeli attack likely within a few weeks or months, but then expanded his time frame to six months. Varda and I argued throughout much of our walk around the neighborhood about how to read between his lines. Neither of us convinced the other whether this former head of an intelligence agency favored or opposed an Israeli attack, or how certain he was that such an attack would occur.
Sunday morning''s Jerusalem Post quotes another former security head as saying that Israel should not--and most likely will not-- act without the consent of the United States.
The Prime Minister has expressed himself against the chattering of retired security chiefs. He interprets their noise as being meant to oppose, or at least to cast doubts on the idea of an Israeli attack. "I will decide . . . and I will be responsible."
Prominent in last week''s news was yet another threat by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calling for the "annihilation of the Zionist regime."
The plusses and minuses associated with an Israeli attack are well known.
- Does Israel have the capacity to inflict anything more than a delay on Iran''s intentions, and most likely upping its motivations to go nuclear?
- How many Israelis will die in the retaliations coming from Iran and its allies in Lebanon and Gaza? We have heard estimates of 300, 500, and thousands.
- Will Iran attack American installations in response, and bring in the United States even if Washington had stayed out of the first round, and may even have denied Israel logistical help and other measures of support?
- Will Israel''s status in American politics suffer from the charge that Americans died in order to protect Israel?
- What if Israel attacks before the American election, and thereby challenges the political calculations of the man who may win a second term?
- Will sanctions by the United States and Europe bite hard enough to cause Iran to abandon what seems to be a project of the highest priority, and thereby make an attack by Israel or the United States unnecessary?
- Can Israel rely on the United States to deliver on its promise of keeping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons?
- Can Israel rely on mutual assured destruction vis a vis Iran? Assuming there is truth in the muddled reports about Israel''s nuclear capacity, it will take years for the Iranians to match Israel''s ability to destroy. Can Israel rely on that time frame as an opportunity for non-fanatical elements in Iranian society to take control?
- Against that is the element in Shi''ite Islam that makes self-punishment and suicide sacred acts.
- Can a nation built on the ashes of the Holocaust and persecution by Muslims ignore the Iranian equivalent of Mein Kampf?
What we do not know is Israel''s plan of attack, and whether it will be coupled with pre-emptive strikes against the munitions acquired by Hizbollah and our neighbors in Gaza. Also among the unknowns is whether Israel has the military resources to do what is necessary to destroy what it must in Iran and keep its own civilian casualties at a minimum, whether the United States will help or turn a cold shoulder, and what comes next in terms of Israel''s security as well as its continued acceptance as a partner in trade, political discourse, and cultural exchange?