Why Israel Won't Attack Iran (Page 2 of 3)

First, by beating the war drums on Iran since 2009, Netanyahu has succeeded in shifting the world’s focus, including that of the Obama administration, from the Israel-Palestine question to Iran. On taking office, President Obama appointed an experienced, senior U.S. official, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, to lead a concerted effort to restart the peace process. That effort is now dead and buried, and when Mitt Romney recently visited Israel, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians was barely even mentioned.

Second, by threatening to attack Iran, Israel hopes to compel the United States and the European Union to impose ever-stricter sanctions on Iran, even to the point where the least-common-denominator unity among the P5+1 world powers – the United States, China, Russia, Great Britain, France and Germany – breaks apart.

And third, Israel hopes that by injecting Iran into the presidential campaign in the United States it can blackmail the United States – Democrats and Republicans alike – to give Israel what it wants.

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Much of this was stated, quite explicitly, in a New York Times op-ed by Dennis Ross, an official at WINEP who, until earlier this year, was Obama’s chief adviser on the Middle East. To forestall an Israeli attack –or, in Ross’s own words, “in order to give Israel’s leaders a reason to wait,” – the United States “should ask Israeli leaders if there are military capabilities we could provide them with — like additional bunker-busting bombs, tankers for refueling aircraft and targeting information — that would extend the clock for them” and make “firm commitments” to supply Israel with “weapons, munitions, spare parts, military and diplomatic backing.” In addition, Ross warns, the United States must “signal to both Israel and Iran that we mean what we say about all options being on the table.” All this, according to Ross, “in return for Israel’s agreement to postpone any attack until next year.”

Nowhere in his op-ed, or in an interview with Al-Monitor, does Ross suggest that Israel’s rhetoric on Iran is overblown or irresponsible.

But that isn’t true in Israel proper, where opposition leaders, top military and intelligence officials, and even President Shimon Peres are lining up against attacking Iran and, at the same time, slamming Netanyahu and Barak for brandishing the threat of war. Outside of those two hawks, the majority of Israel’s cabinet and virtually all of its top national security officials are on record opposing war with Iran, according to Yediot Aharanot, a conservative Israeli newspaper, which based its reporting, in part, on discussions between U.S. and Israel officials. “Officials in Washington recently named Israel’s top security echelon as opponents to a military operation that would exclude the United States. The unnamed U.S. sources said Israeli army chief, military intelligence chief, Air Force commander and Mossad chief objected to a solo Israeli military strike on Iran,” Yediot reported.

Shaul Mofaz, the leader of the opposition Kadima party, flatly accused Netanyahu of scaremongering: “Mr. Prime Minister, you’re creating panic,” he said. “You are trying to frighten us and terrify us. And in truth, we are scared: scared by your lack of judgment, scared that you both lead and don’t lead, scare[d] that you are executing a dangerous and irresponsible policy.”

In addition, President Peres – backed by former president, Yitzhak Navon – told an interviewer that Israel should trust President Obama and resist going it alone in attacking Iran. “It’s clear to us that we can’t do it alone,” said Peres.

Last week, another effort to raise the temperature by Defense Minister Barak backfired. Barak – responding to a report in Haaretz, an Israeli daily – said that a new U.S. intelligence report is “being passed around senior offices” in Washington alleging that Iran is much closer than previously thought to acquiring a nuclear weapon. The original Haaretz report said, “President Barack Obama recently received a new National Intelligence Estimate report on the Iranian nuclear program, which shares Israel’s view that Iran has made surprising, significant progress toward military nuclear capability, Western diplomats and Israeli officials have informed Haaretz.” Added Barak, “As far as we know it brings the American assessment much closer to ours. … It makes the Iranian issue even more urgent and (shows it is) less clear and certain that we will know everything in time about their steady progress toward military nuclear capability.”

In Israel, however, Barak was excoriated for speaking out of turn about U.S. intelligence reports that may or may not exist, and anyway U.S. officials shot down the Haaretz report, insisting, “We believe that there is time and space to continue to pursue a diplomatic path, backed by growing international pressure on the Iranian government. We continue to assess that Iran is not on the verge of achieving a nuclear weapon.”

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