This week we witnessed the collapse of the preconception that has guided Israel’s strategy for dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat.
The preconception goes as follows: Iran threatens not only Israel, but the entire free world. Why attack by ourselves, pay a steep price and become the target of international criticism? Let us pass on the responsibility to the rest of the world, while reminding them that if the necessary measures are not taken, we will attack Iran. This is a win-win situation. If the world solves the problem for us, well and good. If not, we will at least enjoy international legitimacy for our own attack.
In reality, this strategy was not win-win; it was lose-lose. Today it is clearer than ever that the world does not intend to solve the Iranian problem, while the legitimacy for an Israeli attack has severely declined. Even worse is the fact that the technical military challenge has become much more difficult and complex because Iran has progressed with and fortified its nuclear facilities.
For years, I have been warning from wherever possible, particularly in this newspaper – that this preconception leads to disaster.
“Fine,” the world says to us today. “You convinced us. It really is our problem. Please sit quietly and allow us to deal with the problem as we see fit.”
Time and again I explained that even before the direct security threat, this preconception constitutes an essential danger for Israel, much deeper and more essential than the security menace.
The process of the destruction of the Jews that we know as the Holocaust – this is the historical example from which we must learn, and Netanyahu is correct in presenting the issue as such, despite the ridicule and scorn of his detractors – did not begin in 1939 with the start of World War II. The Holocaust began in 1933 when the leader of a large and important country was elected and from his Reichstag, announced his intention to destroy the Jews.
Yes, there is a bomb even more dangerous than any nuclear bomb: the bomb of de-legitimization.
When Ahmadinijad began to threaten Israel and proceeded with actual preparations to make good on those threats, the world was confused. It anticipated an Israeli reaction similar to its attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor. For decades, we have been dragging every visiting VIP to the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, Yad Vashem, pointing to what happens to Jews when they don’t have their own state to protect them and basing our State’s right to exist on this claim. That has been a mistake.
Just a reminder: We are in Israel to fulfill our destiny. We can likely defend our mere existence more successfully – elsewhere. Nonetheless, the survival claim has been Israel’s most fundamental doctrine throughout the years and is the basis for its justification for its existence.
Now, the moment of truth has arrived and in the face of this Holocaust-like threat, Israel has transferred responsibility back to the US and England; the very same countries that were careful not to bomb Auschwitz.
“Wait a second,” says the world to itself. “So everything that you have always said was just lip service? Now that you have a state, you still want us to protect you? If so, what do you need a state for? No great message has come out of Zion. You are just another ordinary western nation. And now you have placed your security concerns on our shoulders? Why do we need all the wars that you create?”
There is a clear correlation between the process of delegitimization that Israel has undergone in the last decade and its non-reaction to Ahmadinijad’s threats. Our lack of response to the construction of the physical bomb is the very factor that constructs the delegitimization bomb.
The interim conclusion from this analysis is that an Israeli military reaction in Iran would eliminate more than the physical bomb, and that possible targets do not necessarily have to include its nuclear facilities. The bomb is not the enemy and neither are the Iranian people. The octopus has a head. It is no coincidence that when Ahmadinijad visited Lebanon, he made a point to stand near the border with Israel, mockingly daring it to shoot him. He understood the Israeli preconception and the wide berth it afforded him.
The Prime Minister’s speech in the UN this week was brilliant – as always. But the question is if the preconception has changed. Today, it is clear to all that the US will not attack Iran. It is also clear that Iran will not stop or slow its nuclear development.
If so, what good are the speeches? Is the rhetoric – as good as it may be – coming from a mental state in which it can still help? Or is the opposite true, and the effort put into rhetoric calms us while ensuring that Israel remains ensnared in the erroneous preconception?
What is Netanyahu waiting for? No clear-cut red line will be crossed. The PM explained that in his UN speech. Was the speech crafted to end the preconception, or is it part of it?
If PM Netanyahu is preparing us for the termination of the preconception, he will go down in history as the leader who saved Israel from the threat of nuclear destruction. But if we are still captive to the preconception, we can expect the following:
The US will adopt a strategy of containment of a nuclear Iran. Slowly but surely, the discussion will evolve into dealing with Iran’s launching capabilities and not its possession of nuclear weapons. Israel will have no choice but to follow suit with the same strategy. In fact, I truly hope that we are not at that point already. Just as the government does not admit to the public that the Temple Mount is not in our hands, so it will not admit that Iran already has a bomb.
But in practice, it will try to build anti-nuclear-missile defense systems. Just as Rabin promised that there would be no rockets from Gaza and today we scramble to hunt down rockets over Bat Yam, so Netanyahu may be the prime minister who promised that Iran will not have a nuclear bomb, while the leaders who follow him will be forced to develop defense systems to eliminate nuclear missiles from the skies of greater Tel Aviv.
If Iran goes nuclear, it will revolutionize its dominance in the Mid-East and the world. We can only imagine what would have happened if Begin had listened to Peres, and Sadaam Hussein would have had nuclear capabilities when he invaded Kuwait. The ruler of a nuclear Iran will likely become the modern-day Salah-a-din, who will unite the Arab ‘states’ into a modern Islamic caliphate. This ‘friendly’ pax-Irania will surround Israel on all sides, the process of de-legitimization will accelerate and the abyss is the limit.
I turn to Prime Minister Netanyahu: Do not be the Israeli leader on whose watch this nightmare scenario becomes reality. The time for talking is over. As they say in America: If you want to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk.
Sent to Arutz Sheva, translated from Makor Rishon