Haaretz Columnist: Bibi, Barack No Mandate For Iran Attack – OpEd


Haaretz columnist Sefi Rachlevsky raises the quaint notion (in a country which honors democratic principle in the breach, if at all) that plans, of which many reputable Israeli military and security correspondents have begun writing in the past weeks, for an Israeli attack on Iran do not have a mandate, not just in Israel, but in America as well.  Rachlevsky insists that the generals and intelligence chiefs man battle stations and do their duty to stop this disaster in the making:

Each and every opponent of an attack within the defense establishment must therefore make it clear to the duo [Barak and Bibi] that they can’t behave like this. It is not possible to endanger an entire nation for years via an underhanded, opportunistic maneuver – not in the dead of night; not by hastily convincing a few elderly rabbis; not in defiance of the entire defense establishment; not in defiance of all the past and present heads of the Israel Defense Forces, the Mossad, the Shin Bet security service, Military Intelligence and the Atomic Energy Commission; not in defiance of the United States; not when Ahmadinejad and his gang of messianists are growing weaker; not when there are signs of American measures in the wake of Iran’s attempt to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington and the International Atomic Energy Agency’s impending severe report; not when the clouds are about to burst [reference to oncoming winter, during which weather conditions prevent an Israeli attack]. Just plain no.

There are things that even a duo, the one-half of which is brave and talented [a back-handed compliment to Barak], can’t do on its own. They have no mandate. Not now. Not like this.

As with many liberal Israelis, I’m afraid he puts too much stock in Israeli democracy and the decency of the Israeli electorate.  Indeed, polls show that a majority of Israelis (and Americans as well) believe an attack on Iran is inevitable.  If you asked them whether they supported an attack right now, the numbers might decline.  But until there are Israelis in body bags (sorry to put this so baldly) Israel will be just fine with an attack on Iran.  They’ll think of how clean and efficient the IDF attack on the so-called Syrian reactor was and expect the same from an Iran attack.  Not realizing of course that hitting Syria is far different from hitting Iran.  Starting wars is easy for Israel.  It’s peace that’s hard.

Seymour Hersh has written extensively about fierce opposition within the U.S. military to a U.S. attack on Iran.  This apparently went a long way toward persuading George Bush that he should not allow him number 1 male rogue, Dick Cheney, lead him into war.  I’m not sure whether the Israeli military has the will, spine, or strength to stare down a Bibi bent on raising David’s sword against the Iranian Goliath (never mind that this David has up to 400 nuclear warheads at his disposal!).

Though I’d prefer not to believe this, I believe that George Bush exerted a much firmer restraining hand on Ehud Olmert than Barack Obama can on Bibi Netanyahu.  First, Olmert was more pragmatic than Bibi and willing to be restrained.  Second, Bush had a far more favorable relationship with Israel than Obama (whether portrayed rightly or wrong).  Third, Obama seems to lack any spine or convictions on any matter related to Israel or indeed the entire Middle East.  Put frankly, if Bibi launched the F-16s I don’t think Obama could or would stop him.  I never thought I’d say this and didn’t believe it for the longest time.  I hope, of course, that I am wrong.  But fear I am not.

We now have U.S. senators like Dianne Feinstein stating publicly (on FoxNews no less) that we’re on a “collision course” with Iran and that it will be “only a matter of time,” before we crack heads.  From there it’s not such a leap to imagining the Obama administration might actually try to spin an Iran attack as it did the Bin Laden and Al-Awlaki assassinations–as bold strikes against world terror.  After all, it’s not hard, in the minds of many Americans to turn the Iranian nuclear program into a dastardly attempt to turn the Middle East into a radioactive wasteland ruled over by crazy, messianic Iranian mullahs.

This article appeared at Tikun Olam

Richard Silverstein

Richard Silverstein is an author, journalist and blogger, with articles appearing in Haaretz, the Jewish Forward, Los Angeles Times, the Guardian’s Comment Is Free, Al Jazeera English, and Alternet. His work has also been in the Seattle Times, American Conservative Magazine, Beliefnet and Tikkun Magazine, where he is on the advisory board. Check out Silverstein's blog at Tikun Olam, one of the earliest liberal Jewish blogs, which he has maintained since February, 2003.

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