In Washington: Will America pay the price if Israel hits Iran?

An unprovoked attack will fail and leave the US, Israel and the world even less secure than before.

mjrosenberg88 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Jeffrey Goldberg, the Atlantic writer is worried about Iran and Israel. His worry is not the usual one. Although Goldberg is an American Jew so committed to Israel that he served in the IDF, he is worried about what an Israeli attack on Iran would mean for America, specifically for American Jews. "The problem is simple: Muslim extremists often conflate Israel and the Diaspora. They do this for two reasons: One, they are anti-Semites, and so tend to see all Jews, and not merely 'Zionists,' as their enemies; the second is a practical one - it is easy to strike at soft Jewish targets outside of Israel, easier, certainly, than executing mass terror attacks against Israeli targets these days. And so what you have, on occasion, is an attack like the one directed against the Jewish center in Argentina in 1994, in which 85 people were murdered," he writes. In other words, American Jews - comfortable in their homes in New York, Washington or LA - could pay a very heavy price if Israel attacks Iran. Goldberg writes that the reason we don't hear much about this issue of "blowback" is that just raising it challenges the fundamental premise underlying Zionism. The existence of the State of Israel supposedly makes Jews in the Diaspora safer. If, on the other hand, actions taken by Israel jeopardize Jews outside it, then the Zionist concept looks flawed. Blowback also cuts into the whole idea of Diaspora sympathy for, and identification with, Israel. If American Jews believe that their own children and grandchildren here are no more secure than children and grandchildren in Israel, suddenly the playing field is leveled. Sympathy and concern is no longer a one-way street. After all, as much as we care about Israel's well-being, we are more concerned with the well-being of our own families wherever they may live, and with the well-being of our neighbors and our country. That is as it should be. After all, no one imagines that Israelis living in Tel Aviv are more concerned about Jewish kids in Brooklyn than about their own kids. Why would they be? The whole question of whether Israel's actions can jeopardize us here is fraught with troubling questions. But they have to be raised. AN ISRAELI attack on Iran - absent an imminent threat of attack from Iran - is a terrible idea for many reasons. It would not succeed in eliminating Iran's nuclear program but would almost surely prompt Iran to both opt out of the international inspection regime and redouble its efforts to produce a bomb. It would unite Arabs and Muslims against the US (they know that Israel could not attack Iran without implicit or explicit US approval). It would have a disastrous effect on the American effort next door in Iraq, eliminating recently made gains and endangering 130,000 American troops (this is why Defense Secretary Robert Gates so vehemently opposes an Israeli attack). And it would end the Arab-Israeli peace process, even putting the peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan at risk. And, no small thing, an attack would lead to a deadly Hizbullah missile onslaught against Israel, joined no doubt by Hamas in the south. Nonetheless, an attack is not out of the question because there are forces in Israel and here that believe that anything, no matter how dangerous, is better than either negotiating with Iran or relying on sanctions. These people are as hell-bent for war with Iran as they were for war with Iraq. Mostly, they are the same people. Always wrong, always eager for war. (Many of these people encouraged Georgia to take on Russia, as always disregarding consequences.) Of course, the last major war they agitated for - the one to depose Saddam - did not present the same threat of blowback here. Saddam Hussein was a lone wolf. Despite the now thoroughly discredited propaganda issued by neocons in and out of the administration, he was not allied with al-Qaida or any other terrorist group that would seek to avenge him. Iran is. And Iran, or its proxies such as Hizbullah, no doubt has sleeper cells here ready to strike following an attack on the Shi'ite motherland. NOT LONG ago, we Americans could imagine that we were immune to the kind of terrorism long afflicting Israel and other places. No more. The 9/11 attacks that took 3,000 lives in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania were the most deadly attacks anywhere. After 9/11, nobody can tell Americans that we are naïve and that if we experienced what the Israelis have, we'd be wiser. We now know the ways of the world all too well. (My mother's little neighborhood in New York City lost 75 people on 9/11. My brother-in-law lost 300 "brothers" - fellow firefighters in New York, by far the largest number of firefighters ever lost). And it's not like 9/11 is likely to be the last terrorist attack on our shores. No one in our government believes that. More than a few are surprised that we have not experienced a second 9/11 already. There are, of course, those who argue that nothing the US or its allies do have any connection to attacks here. It is an article of faith for neoconservatives that "they" hate us for who we are and not for anything we do. But that's nonsense. They may hate us for who we are, but they often attack us because of things we have done. The Spanish government tried, after the terrible attack on Madrid that took 200 lives, to blame Basque terrorists because it did not want to admit that it was the Spanish government's decision to commit troops to Iraq that caused the attack. Later the truth came out and the government fell. In short, actions have consequences. Governments, including the governments of the US and Israel, should consider them before preemptively attacking another Muslim state, especially when it is almost certain that an unprovoked attack will fail and leave the US, Israel and the world even less secure than before. Jeff Goldberg wonders if we Americans have the right to advise Israel on what it should or shouldn't do on matters that relate to its security. Of course we do - when it also affects our own. The writer is the director of of the Israel Policy Forum's Washington Policy Center.