Encountering Peace: Obama, don't let us do it!

We don’t need Obama to come to Jerusalem to convince the people of Israel of his good intentions.

US President Obama with PM Netanyahu at White House 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
US President Obama with PM Netanyahu at White House 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
An amazing line-up of military experts, retired generals, heads of the Mossad and the General Security Service, former heads of the National Security Council, former defense ministers and prime ministers have all called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak not to attack Iran without the full support and engagement of the United States.
Despite the backgrounds of these people, there is an inclination among some of the right-wing MK’s and supporters of the prime minister to declare that those to adhere to this position are leftists, traitors, quislings and anarchists. I am not referring to those who have called on pilots to refuse their orders but people whose military background and political record cannot be questioned.
I am also calling on the prime minister and the defense minister not to launch an attack against Iran. I know I will be called Chamberlain and quisling and lots of other names. I know that some of my readers will automatically say that I am in favor of the Iranians launching a nuclear attack against Israel. I don’t care. When the defense minister glibly talks about 500 casualties if we Israelis behave ourselves and stay indoors, there is good reason to question his sanity in advocating an attack.
Why not 5,000 or 50,000? Who can accurately predict how many of us will be killed by the rainfall of rockets that may penetrate our missile defense systems? The Iran-Iraq war lasted eight years and there were more than one million casualties. If we launch an attack against Iran, why should we think it will be quick and end when we want it to end?
This is, of course, set against the risk of having to deal with an Iranian nuclear bomb. No one has said the final “red line” set by Israel – an Iranian decision to make a bomb – has been crossed. No one has produced absolute, firm, undeniable evidence that there is an Iranian nuclear bomb program. The best that we have are IAEA reports that cannot certify that there is no nuclear weapons program.
The United States presented harder evidence than that to justify attacking Iraq without finding a single shred of real evidence that Saddam Hussein in fact had a nuclear weapons program prior to the Second Gulf War. I am not saying that Iran does or does not presently have a nuclear weapons program.
They probably do have the intention to develop a weapons program and I do not ignore or take lightly the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric threatening our existence. I do question the wisdom of a lone Israeli strike against Iran.
I think an Israeli strike against Iran would aim to raise the price of Iranian plans. The Israeli strike would seek to create deterrence against future Iranian plans. Even if there is no real possibility of a serious blow against the nuclear program, an Israeli strike would probably target civilian infrastructure such as the refineries and electricity plants with the aim of sending Iran back into the 19th century.
Similar war plans prior to the Second Lebanon War did not turn the Lebanese public against Hezbollah, as hoped, but quite the opposite, turned Hassan Nasrallah into one of the most popular leaders in the Arab and Islamic world. I am quite sure some of our Israeli experts around Netanyahu and Barak are betting that an Israeli strike would empower the Iranian opposition and give new life to the “green movement” which erupted in protests following the 2009 presidential elections.
What if the Israeli strike achieves the exact opposite goal? What if an Israeli strike is what gives the Iranian ayatollahs the public legitimacy to advance the nuclear weapons program that it likely doesn’t have today? The end result may in fact be the Iranian decision to make their bombs and even to speed up their plans to show that despite the Israeli attack they can still do it.
AN ISRAELI strike against Iran is bad for Israel. It is too dangerous, too risky, has no assured results, and puts millions of Israeli citizens at direct risk of missile attacks from our neighbors. It will consolidate support against Israel throughout the Arab and Islamic world, even if some of the regimes in the region would actually be pleased with the Israeli strike, the Arab and Islamic streets around the region would rally around the ayatollahs’ hatred of Israel. Jews and Jewish institutions around the world would be vulnerable to Iranian led terrorism – we have seen their capabilities already. Why take on all of these risks?
It seems to me the best way today to prevent the impending Israeli strike is for the US to stop beating around the bush and to put its foot down and publicly state without any ifs, ands or buts that an Israeli strike at this time against Iran is not acceptable.
Israel would be using US-supplied weapons and technology, and as Israel’s most important ally by far it has a responsibility to tell us what they really believe. The width and the depth of the US-Israel relation goes far beyond the $3 billion of annual aid. Israel has far too much to lose by ignoring a firm US demand. In order to make that US unequivocal statement even more valid, President Barack Obama should also state once again that the US will not allow Iran to achieve nuclear bomb status and to back that statement with a firm US commitment to use force if necessary to validate that commitment.
We don’t need Obama to come to Jerusalem to convince the people of Israel of his good intentions. We do need President Obama to say to us: “calm down, we will not leave Israel alone and we will not tolerate an Iranian nuclear bomb.” For the sake of Israel, we need our American friends to stop us before it is too late.
The writer is the co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post, a radio host on All for Peace Radio and the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Schalit.