Tenderizing the opposition to war with Iran

Barak/Netanyahu – they are “one hand” – are presenting an Israeli attack as an inevitability.

It seems the die has been cast – Netanyahu and Barak have decided to bomb Iran in a matter of months, as Ronen Bergman concluded in the New York Times Magazine – and now it’s time to close ranks around the decision. This is my impression from the continual news stories about Israel’s plans for Iran over the last couple of days.

The clearest sign came from former IDF chief Gabi Ashekenazi, who apparently defected from Meir Dagan’s antiwar camp. “When the moment comes, I don’t know if we won’t be alone, and for this reason Israel must also rely on itself,” said Ashkenazi, the heavyweight champ of retired Israeli military leaders.

Another strong indication is the erasure of any fears or counter-arguments to war that might still be floating around the security establishment. The New York Times reports that new Israeli intelligence estimates and academic studies “cast doubt on the widespread assumption that a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities would set off a catastrophic set of events…” And guess what? These estimates and studies have been “largely adopted by the country’s most senior officials.” One study comes from Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center, the country’s most hawkish security think tank. The other one was co-authored by Amos Yadlin, retired chief  of military intelligence – and another former member of Dagan’s camp.

In Davos today, Barak reinforced the message he gave Bergman, telling reporters it was “urgent” to stop the Iranians because they are “deliberately drifing into what we call an immunity zone where practically no surgical operation could block them.” Bergman wrote that Israel’s security establishment says Iran’s advancing nuclear project will become immune from Israeli military attack in nine months, and from U.S. attack in 15 months – and that because the Israelis are convinced the Obama administration won’t strike, they intend to.

There has also been news in the last couple of days that offers some hope that it isn’t a done deal. America’s top military man, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, said it was “premature” to strike Iran, that it would be militarily and economically “destabilizing.” However, he also reiterated that the U.S. is “determined to prevent [Iran] from acquiring that weapon.” Israelis read such statements as weakness, equivocation; they’re not enought to stop Netanyahu and Barak, especially not in an election year when the Republicans all sound like Avigdor Lieberman.

Also, Time magazine reported that a military commander – from the context, it sounds like the Israel Air Force commander – told Netanyahu, Barak and the cabinet in the fall that “we have no ability to hit the Iranian nuclear program in a meaningful way.” Time’s Karl Vick leans toward the conclusion that Israel will not hit Iran because “everyone agrees…it simply lacks the capacity to mount the kind of sustained, weeks-long aerial bombardment required to knock down Iran’s nuclear program.”

Well, if everyone agreed on that, Barak, Netanyahu, Ashkenazi and all these anonymous top security officials wouldn’t be talking like they are. Based on what we’re hearing, on- and off-the-record, and especially from Barak/Netanyahu – they are “one hand” – the only realistic working assumption anymore is that Israel will bomb Iran in the coming months. What’s happening now looks like the tenderizing of opposition in the security establishment and the West by presenting the attack as an inevitability.

But though these two menaces to society are trying to sell the war as an inevitability, that doesn’t mean it’s inevitable. Here I would like to quote two namesakes of mine. Lawrence “Yogi” Berra: “It ain’t over til the fat lady sings.” Lawrence of Arabia: “Nothing is written.”