Israel's leadership resolved, in top-level strategic discussions three months ago, to do whatever it takes to prevent Iran from having nuclear bombs. This is Maariv's front-page headline on Friday.
Maariv's veteran political reporter Ben Caspit stops short of detailing the precise solution Israel will implement to put an end to Iran's nuclear program, but writes, "Preparations for an Israeli military option intended to stop Iran's nuclear program are underway."
The results of the series of highest-level discussions are thus clear: "The debate between those who believe in doing everything, including a military operation, to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb, and those who think we can live with Iranian nukes, has been settled."
Not only that, but "if the ayatollahs' regime does not fall in the next year, if the Americans do not strike militarily, and if the international sanctions do not break the Iranian nuclear plan, Israel will have to act forcefully."
Olmert: Home Front and Air Force
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gave a strong hint of Israel's intentions when he said in a closed forum last week that the IDF has only two truly important commands: the Home Front Command and the Air Force.
Caspit writes that at present, the U.S. is refusing to cooperate with the Israeli plan and will not give Israel the necessary permission and codes it needs to overfly Iraq in order to attack Iran. "We'll help you defend yourselves," the Americans say, offering special radar systems, "but we won't let you attack."
A security source put it this way: "The Americans have accepted the fact that Iran will be a nuclear power, and are trying to get us to accept it too." But we will not, says Caspit.
Sneh's Bloodless Plan
Former Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh proposes a third option: A total international embargo on spare parts for Iran's oil industry and a complete international boycott of Iran's banks.
Others have called for an end to investments and an international divestment capaign from Iran and countries doing business with Iran, including Opposition Leader Binyamin Netanyahu and U.S. Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain.
Sneh sent an eight-clause memo to both McCain and his challenger, Sen. Barack Obama, outlining the plan that he says will be the "most rational and cheap, and will not cause bloodshed." If the U.S. recruits all of Europe to take part in these "genuine" sanctions, Sneh says, Iran's regime will be toppled from within. The time to implement this program is within the next 18-24 months; otherwise, Sneh warns, the only alternative will be an Israeli military strike.
Sneh, who recently resigned from the his Labor Party Knesset seat to form a new party, visited last week in Switzerland and Austria - two countries that have announced plans for huge oil and gas investments in Iran in the coming years.
Hearing his hosts describing their future investments, Sneh said he told them quietly, "What a shame, because Ido will set it all on fire." Ido is Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan - Commander of the Israel Air Force that would carry out the air strikes on Iran.
"Investing in Iran in 2008," Sneh told the Austrians, "is like investing in Germany's Krups plant in 1938; it's a high-risk investment." The Austrians turned pale, Sneh said.