Israelis Prepare for War With Iran
After bombs went off near Israeli embassies in New Delhi and Tbilisi, and a man with an Iranian passport accidentally blew himself up in Bangkok, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu couldn’t let the opportunity pass. Yediot Aharonot, the country’s most widely read newspaper, reported Wednesday:
An updated list of talking points distributed by the national advocacy desk in the Prime Minister’s Office sought to connect the wave of terror with the international community’s efforts at tightening sanctions on Iran, and also to prepare the ground for a military option to stop Iran’s nuclear program.
According to Yediot, the new talking points read: “Iran and Hizbullah are behind these terror attempts. If this is what Iran is doing now, imagine what it will do if its nuclear arms project reaches the goal.” The tabloid’s story was headlined “Iran’s long arm,” and the subhead read, “Israel to the world: ‘Terror acts show nuclear Iran cannot be allowed.’” The story’s ominous tone meshed perfectly with the talking points.
Israel’s whole body politic - politicians, media, influential public figures and public at large - is now leaning into a war with Iran. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s recently reported opinion that Israel would likely strike between April and June is shared, give or take a month or two, by countless others.
The consequences of such an attack range from a bilateral missile war and intensified international terror attacks, to a regional war involving weapons of mass destruction. Israel may not pull the trigger, of course. But at this point, that seems the only realistic working assumption.
Israeli talking points are coming faster and sharper. Iran’s nuclear project is marching toward the “zone of immunity,” says Defense Minister Ehud Barak. “It is our duty to rely on ourselves when we are concerned with a threat to our very existence,” says Netanyahu. Their apparent aim is to create an aura of inevitability around an imminent Israeli strike. Leading the drive, Netanyahu and his one-time army commando unit leader, Barak, want full support at home and no serious opposition from the U.S. if and when they send the jet bombers on their mission. Naturally, they would prefer that the U.S. do the job - inflicting lasting damage on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure could well be beyond Israel’s military capability - but from here, at least, the American military option looks unlikely, certainly within a time frame Israel accepts.
Some skeptics think Netanyahu and Barak may just be engaging in psychological warfare aimed at keeping Western economic pressure on Iran, the goal being to force or scare the Tehran regime into giving up its pursuit of nuclear weapons, which it denies pursuing. But it’s hard to imagine anything short of visibly destroyed hardware on a massive scale that might convince Israel’s leadership that the nuclear threat had been lifted.
Yet while there is skepticism about the leadership team’s true intentions, there is virtually none being expressed here about the wisdom of going to war. The paucity of dissent is remarkable, not to say depressing, in a country that prides itself on being a “vibrant democracy.”
At the end of last week, the media were talking about which towns had good bomb shelters and air raid sirens and which didn’t. The likelihood that Israel would soon be attacking Iran had begun to sink in. An antiwar demonstration was held across the boulevard from the Defense Ministry compound in Tel Aviv. About 25 people showed up. They held signs that read, “Don’t bomb - talk” to the evening rush hour traffic going past. One driver honked.