Israel Won’t Attack Iran in 2013 — Our Assessment; Obama Arrives Wednesday

Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu

President Obama doesn’t want Israel to do it.  He’ll say so, in person, in Jerusalem this week.  Israel is likely, once again, to restrain itself — reluctantly depending on Obama to strike Iran.  If deemed unavoidable and unnecessary.  Maybe next year.

-o-

When one assesses the make-up of Benjamin Netanyahu’s newly formed coalition in Jerusalem, there are several facts that lead to a prediction that Israel’s military will not attack Iran this year.

We humbly note that we published our assessment, a year ago, that no attack would occur in 2012.  A very senior Israeli official, reacting to one of our articles at TabletMag.com, challenged one of us: “How can you be so sure?”  His job, it seems, was to add to the impression — around the world and especially in the United States — that Netanyahu was very serious in warning that Israel might have to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities at any time.

Netanyahu’s partner in saber-rattling was Defense Minister Ehud Barak.  But Barak, unable to find any traction for a new political party he tried to form, ended up quitting politics.  He is not in the Knesset, and he’s no longer in the cabinet.  Barak’s absence is the main indicator that Israel won’t be rushing its air force or missiles into an offensive against Iran.

Moshe Yaalon

The new defense minister, a former military chief of staff who is proud of leading the elite Sayeret Matkal commando force, is Moshe “Boogie” Yaalon.  He is a hawk in most things, but it seems that he is in agreement with the current and former military and intelligence chiefs who are against a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran.

One reason is the assessment that Iran’s nuclear work would be delayed for only a while.  Some officials say that is good enough.  But, when balancing any gains against the likely damage, destruction, and deaths from Iranian retaliation, the military and intelligence chiefs have concluded that attacking Iran — and doing so without American participation — would be folly.

Amos Yadlin

Retired Major-General Amos Yadlin, who was head of Aman (the Military Intelligence) agency until 2010 — and now heads an influential think tank in Tel Aviv — is trying to keep the military option extremely credible by telling the AIPAC conference in Washington that no one is talking about starting “a war” with Iran.  (View the video here.)  Yadlin said what’s being considered would be a “one-night operation.”  It doesn’t appear that Yadlin favors a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran, but — as an officer who served as Israel’s military attache in Washington — he does want to keep America’s attention on the unacceptable dangers of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

President Barack Obama has just repeated his firm intention to stop Iran from doing so, but his timeline is significantly different from Netanyahu’s.  Obama told Israel TV that it would take more than a year for Iran to build a nuclear bomb — and he apparently meant after a decision by Iran’s leaders to step-up their uranium enrichment and bomb project.  Both U.S. and Israeli intelligence assess that Iran has not yet made that decision.

Obama will arrive in Israel on Wednesday (March 20) for his first visit as President, and he’ll have plenty of opportunity to discuss this and other issues with Netanyahu — both at a press conference and behind closed doors.  On March 21 he will visit leaders of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, and Obama will deliver a speech aimed at the Israeli people in a convention center in Jerusalem.

 

March 16, 2013

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