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What Happens 'The Day After' an Iranian Nuclear Attack?

An Iranian attack on Israel will not necessarily be "the end," says historian Dr. Uri Milstein. Israel, he says, can face "the day after."
By David Lev
First Publish: 11/21/2011, 12:07 PM

Will Israel really attack Iran and attempt to destroy its nuclear facilities? The conventional wisdom is that although Jerusalem would like to, it most likely won't – because of fear of what would happen next, and especially “the day after.” In the wake of such an attack, many Israeli officials believe, Iran could strike back with a barrage of weapons – nuclear or conventional.

Of just as great concern is the possibility – even likelihood – of tens of thousands of conventional missiles being fired at Israel by Hizbullah and Hamas terrorists, operating out of Lebanon and Hamas. Both terror groups, after all, are proxies for Iran, and both have substantial supplies of sophisticated missiles, some probably tipped with biological or chemical weapons.

An all-out attack on Israel, the conventional wisdom goes, would basically shut down the government and pretty much disable all defense efforts. At that point, all that would be left would be for Arab armies to march into Israel and “throw the Jews into the sea.” Considering the constant threats lobbed at Israel by Iran, in fact, such a scenario is possible - perhaps even eventually likely - even without Israel's attempting to destroy anything in Iran. And once Iran does get the bomb, many believe, it's just a matter of time before Israel has to face "the day after."

Not everyone agrees with the CW, however – and Dr. Uri Milstein, one of Israel's most prominent military historians, believes that there are steps Israel can take right now that could ensure that Israel survives – and even emerges victorious – on “the day after.” There are 7 million people in Israel, Milstein told Arutz Sheva in an interview – 6 million of them Jews – and the people of Israel, he believes, will have it in them to not only survive, but also to respond effectively in the event of a major attack.

That response, he says, would come in the form of a “second strike,” Israel's response to a major attack by Iran or the terror groups – and that strike would come in the form of Israel's vaunted nuclear capability. Although Israel has never confirmed that it has such weapons, foreign press reports place the number of Israel's nuclear arsenal in the dozens, if not hundreds. Milstein believes those reports, and believes that the leadership of the country would use those weapons at the moment of truth.

That, in and of itself, says Milstein, is a deterrence for Iran and its terror allies to launch a major strike on Israel, even in the event of an attack by Israel on Iran's nuclear facilities. “We all hope and pray we never face that moment, but if we do, the Israeli response would fashion a 'new Middle East.' Israeli nuclear weapons would wipe out Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas, and possibly Syria and Lebanon, where Hizbullah would attack from.” Israel will eventually have to deal with these terror groups anyway, but cannot until a major event that would justify it takes place – such as an Iranian attack on Israel. “We have to relate to such a scenario in Biblical terms, as the modern-day equivalent of the final War of Gog and Magog,” says Milstein.

The Israeli people, he says, understand what is at stake, and are willing to sacrifice in order to ensure a better future. Of course, it would be best to avoid the entire scenario, but Milstein believes that preventing Iran from getting “the bomb” at this point would be very difficult. “Just like the U.S. has been unable to prevent North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons, Israel has been unable to prevent Iran's progress. Thus we must be prepared for the eventuality of an attack,” Milstein says.

The subject of “what if" rarely comes up in public (click here for a recent Arutz Sheva oped on the subject by Professor Louis Rene Beres) – or even private – discourse in Israel, possibly because many feel it would damage the morale of Israelis. Milstein is not overly worried about that, however, pointing out the dire predictions before the Six Day War that between 50,000 and 100,000 Israelis would be killed if war broke out. “They even prepared mass graves at Bloomfield Stadium in Jaffa. But the predictions and precautions actually increased Israelis' morale and motivation to strike back and destroy their enemies,” Milstein said.