This week the Israeli military/intellgence establishment, backed by the U.S., has come out forcefully against war, isolating Netanyahu. He needs the cabinet’s support to attack, and there’s no way he’ll get it.
It’s not often that the story out of Israel, and out of America’s relationship with Israel, is good, but the story that’s emerged over the last few days is much more than good, and given Israel’s build-up toward war with Iran for the last five years at least, the story is so out of character that it’s hard to absorb. But here it is – Israel is not going to attack Iran. Not before the November 6 presidential election, not afterward if Obama wins, and maybe not afterward even if Romney wins, which is unlikely.
It’s not that Netanyahu doesn’t want to bomb Iran – he does, and he makes that clearer every day. What’s happened is that there’s been such a torrent of opposition in the Israeli media this week from the security establishment, starting with IDF chief Benny Gantz, and backed by the Obama Administration and Pentagon, that there’s no way Bibi can get his cabinet to vote for a war, and without the cabinet’s backing, he can’t do it. The ministers will not support Bibi in an extremely risky war opposed by the heads of the IDF, IDF Intelligence, the Air Force, the Mossad, the Shin Bet and the United States of America.
There’s been a price for all this, though; the Obama Administration has as much as promised Israel that if Iran gets within reach of nuclear capability – which it isn’t now – the U.S. military will smash it up to an extent that Israel can’t. Yedioth Ahronoth’s Shimon Shiffer, dean of Israeli diplomatic correspondents, reported that the Americans are telling Israel that the time for a U.S. attack wouldn’t be for at least another year-and-a-half. If that’s what it took to convince Gantz and his military/intelligence colleagues to get out the word that Israel should leave the job in America’s hands, it was worth it. An imminent catastrophe has been averted. As Gantz was reported by Channel 10 to say, an Iranian missile counterrattack on the Israeli homefront “will not resemble anything we have known in the past.”
So I think the game is up. Making the case for war with Iran is now a losing battle, and people are going to start running away from it, beginning, I expect, with Ehud Barak, who has been Bibi’s equal partner in this whole scaremongering affair. There are other political/personal tensions pulling the two apart, but the air of futility that now surrounds the Iran file is enough for Barak to get off it. At some point even AIPAC may get the hint. Either before or after AIPAC, Bibi himself will give up, he’ll “move on,” until the only people still backing an Israeli war on Iran will be Sheldon and his boy Mitt.
As a rule, the Israeli security/ intelligence establishment is less hawkish and much more sane than the political right wing and the public at large; its current antiwar campaign is a vivid illustration. This has been one of its finest hours. Also for the Israeli media. I didn’t expect it; I thought the bad guys were going to win like they’ve been winning for so long. This episode reminds me that there are good things about this country, good people, and why Israel is worth saving.