Maariv publishes an important article (Hebrew) noting that Meir Dagan is not the only senior military-intelligence official decrying a possible Israeli strike on Iran. Among the others who agree with him are former chief of IDF intelligence Shlomo Gazit, former defense minister Benyamin Ben Eliezer, and former Mossad director Ephraim HaLevy, and many others.
This article is so resonant and penetrating I’ll translate bits of it here. Quoting Anthony Cordesmann’s research on the subject (which I’ve covered here), it begins by noting that Israel itself predicts that a major air assault to knock out Iran’s nuclear facilities would involve the loss of fully one-third of the planes, which would be knocked out by missiles and Russian-provided air defense systems. Think of this. Israel would have to assign scores if not hundreds of planes and pilots to this operation. A third will not return. A third. Pilots are among the most skilled of all the personnel in the IDF: the creme de la creme. If one-third of the personnel don’t return it will be an enormous hit for the service and a enormous loss for the nation. Personally, I think it is a loss that the nation as a whole will neither forgive or forget (though it might rally round Bibi in the short term).
Those who do return will come back to a nation altogether different than the one they left. The Iranian response will be massive and painful, utilizing Shihad 3 land to land missiles which can reach every corner of the country. The article envisions (though I tend to doubt this part) that some of the missiles will be equipped with chemical warheads and extract a painful cost in loss of life.
In writing of Cordesman’s research here previously, I’ve noted the other parts of his scenario: that Iran will activate groups willing to act in solidarity with it, notably Hezbollah and possibly Hamas. Besides massive terror attacks, there will be rockets raining down on Israel from Lebanon as in 2006 and from Gaza as in 2008. From its perch on the Persian Gulf, Iran will attempt to strangle the flow of oil from all fields whose shipping must pass through these straits. This will result in massive spikes in oil prices and a serious blow to the world economy.
Maariv’s reporter also notes Ephraim HaLevy’s comments in a Time Magazine 2008 interview in which he predicts the results of an Israeli attack will be “devestating in the long run:”
It may impact us for the next 100 years, including an enormous negative affect on Arab public opinion toward us.
In an interview for the current article, HaLevy went even farther, pointing out that in the Time interview he hadn’t said “100 years,” but rather “a century,” by which he meant the negative impacts would be felt for generations, possibly even more than 100 years.
Shlomo Gazit goes even farther and his language is shocking and unrestrained:
An Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear reactors will lead to the liquidation of Israel. We will cease to exist after such an attack. The result we seek in this attack of destroying Iran’s nuclear capability will have the opposite result. Iran will immediately become an explicit nuclear power. Iran will play the oil card to force the UN to pressure Israel to return to 1967 borders. Such a settlement will, of course, include Jerusalem as well.
The threat of missiles across every part of Israel, international pressure and the necessity of returning the Territories. This we will not be able to survive. This is what Meir Dagan is trying to say. Use some common sense and ask yourselves why such an attack is necessary.
Even one of those who planned and conceived the Osirak attack in 1979 on Iraq’s nuclear reactor, Aviam Sela, warns that Israel was forced to spend huge sums to defend itself from expected Iraqi counter-attack, which didn’t materialize until the SCUD attacks of the 1991 Gulf War. Sela says far and away the most desired method of resolving this conflict is through negotiation. ”The military option,” he says, “is the least desirable solution.”
The director of Israel’s Atomic Energy Agency at the time of the Osirak attack, Uzi Elam, opposed it vehemently because he believed it would cause the world to invoke sanctions against Israel and would ratchet up a Middle East arms race, which is precisely what he claims happened, with Saddam dabbling in WMD, biological weapons, (which by 2003 he had abandoned), etc.
“The attack didn’t stop Iraq’s desire to develop nuclear weapons, it strengthened it.
Similarly, Benyamin Ben Eliezer warns that an attack may delay development of nuclear material at the facility attacked, but it will not delay overall development. In fact, it will only strengthen Iran’s determination to become a nuclear power.
Another senior official of Israel’s Home Defense, which will be responsible for caring for the Israeli refugees from Iranian counter-attack, also warns that an attack on Iran, instead of ending Iran’s nuclear ambitions, may ignite a nuclear arms race in the region, the opposite of Bibi’s intent.
The jingoists rooting for war should understand that Cordesman, HaLevy, Gazit and all the others are not dealing in theoreticals. They’re dealing in actuality if Bibi goes for broke. The dead won’t be imaginary either in Iran or Israel. The blood won’t be like in a movie. It will be from the bodies of real live people with fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers. It will decimate entire families and communities. That’s what they mean when they say Israel won’t be the same if it survives at all. Is this a price Israel can afford to pay even if it wants to?
This article was first published at Tikun Olam