Alon Ben David, Channel 10 News’ military correspondent pens a column in Haaretz exposing the tell-tale signs that Ehud Barak and Bibi Netanyahu may be planning for an attack on Iran before winter sets in. Below, I note a different report saying that Leon Panetta would be in discussions with Israel next week, and one of his goals was to remind Israel that the U.S. quid pro quo for torpedoing Palestinian statehood in the UN was nixing an Israeli attack on Iran.
Although it seems insane to most rational observers outside Israel to contemplate war against Iran, within Israel just such an eventuality is almost accepted wisdom in many circles. For a prime minister and defense minister seeking to divert attention from their failures on the world stage including the messes with Egypt, Turkey and Palestine, Ben David suggests that an Iran adventure would sit quite well with the electorate. As Ben David puts it:
…The anticipated [Palestinian] diplomatic stalemate, compounded by the sense of a thickening siege, could potentially prod the prime minister and the defense minister into seeking their own political resurrection in Iran.
This after all is why Ehud Olmert, when faced with an opportunity to make peace with Syria under Turkish mediation, chose instead to invade Gaza in 2008. There is practically no domestic downside for Israeli politicians fomenting wars against their neighbors. Even when such wars fail, the failure is perceived abroad rather than at home. Prime ministers almost never fall over a war. You’d have to go back decades to find one (Golda Meir, I think).
Ben David notes the rationale for an autumn attack:
During the coming winter, centrifuges in Iran will produce close to a ton of enriched uranium, and Iran will relay this uranium product to its underground vault at Qom. There, beneath layers of stone, it would be very hard for an airstrike to derail the production process.
The correspondent notes Barak’s frustration with his own senior military command:
During a moment of frustration caused by his inability to recruit support in the IDF for such an attack, Barak scolded officers in the General Staff, saying that with “such a caliber of officers, Israel would never have won the Six Day War.”
Ben David further claims that the reason why the new IDF chief of staff was originally passed over for the appointment was that he wouldn’t bend on the Iran question, unlike Yoav Galant, who Bibi and Barak found more pliant. Galant was later felled by a personal scandal, after which the political leadership nominated Benny Gantz for the job he now holds.
There is an important new command appointment in the offing and the Channel 10 journalist says that of the two candidates for IAF chief, one may be amenable to attacking Iran and the other is known much more for his independence. If Bibi’s military secretary, Yochanan Locker, is appointed to the post, Ben David says, then we’ll know that Gantz is not controlling senior personnel appointments and that they are being dictated by the political echelon–an echelon that wants war.
Writing in Yisrael HaYom (Hebrew), Yoav Limor also notes subtle signs pointing either to an imminent attack or urgent U.S. effort to thwart it. He reports that Leon Panetta will be arriving in Israel next week on a mission to argue strenuously against such an assault:
The prime minister hinted in his speech that in light of the lack of activity on the international front that Israel must “protect itself.” It’s logical to presume that this will stand at the center of next week’s visit of U.S. secretary of defense, Leon Panetta. The U.S. will seek reassurance that Israel isn’t going to go crazy and Jerusalem will be expected to make a painful deal: [the U.S.] torpedoing a Palestinian state in return for [Israel] cancelling an attack on Iran.
Another Haaretz columnist writes this about Bibi’s yearning to attack Iran:
Netanyahu is completely serious in his desire, and also in his preparations to circumvent the warnings of the entire defense establishment in order to implement this desire, which many of those in his inner circle have defined as messianic: to attack Iran before winter. Before the clouds come, anyone who can stop him must do so.