You can all relax — in the last two weeks, nothing new has happened with regard to an attack on Iran. The cabinet hasn’t convened, the defense minister hasn’t summoned the IDF general staff and no new information has been received. Everything that is known today was known two months ago.
Israel and the United States have long coordinated on Iran’s “centrifuge level.” The problem isn’t the information, but rather its interpretation. The Americans can do what we can’t, even in another six months or a year. The real problem is the lack of trust between the sides. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak don’t believe that US President Barack Obama and US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will strike Iran. Oh, I forgot: Netanyahu and Barak are determined to do it. That’s also not new. They are always determined.
So for God’s sake, maybe it’s time to just do it already? Notice how much noise is being directed at us and at the world regarding Netanyahu and Barak’s “determination.” Until recently, there was an active nuclear reactor, almost “at a boiling point,” in Syria (Operation Orchard was an alleged Israeli airstrike on a nuclear reactor in the Deirez-Zor region of Syria on Sept. 6, 2007). Israel took down the reactor quietly — without too many words, without chatter, without media spin, threats, provocations and fights. True, the Iranian matter is more complicated, but the damage that has been caused thus far to the security establishment, to the trust between the political and military leadership and to a rare feeling of normalcy around here is irreversible.
Whether relating to Iran or not, the trust between Netanyahu and Barak on one hand and the present and past security establishment on the other should be of concern to every citizen in this country. And still, it should be clear: if Netanyahu and Barak decide that that’s that, the die has been cast and it’s time to attack, they have every right to do so. They’ll get a cabinet majority and go out and strike. That’s how democracy works. The problem is that the process they’re putting us through in the meantime is so convoluted, ridiculous, loud, awkward and choppy, prompting fears of what could come if it does happen.
This grotesque performance peaked last Sunday, when Bibi Netanyahu’s mouthpiece, the free daily Israel Hayom, printed a top headline reading “Chatterboxes,” with pictures of former Mossad head Efraim Halevy and former head of IDF Military Intelligence Aharon Ze’evi-Farkash. (Both declared last week to the Israeli media that Israel should think twice before attacking Iran on its own.) Fate had it that on the same day, in other newspapers, a long, detailed and terrifying briefing was published, straight from a conversation Netanyahu had with senior Army Radio officials. Okay, he’s allowed.
Personally, I have a hard time believing those two. Netanyahu? Because he has never made a truly difficult decision in his life. The few tough ones he did make were bad. Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal is still alive, and, well, the Western Wall tunnel brought him crawling to the White House, where he “found a new friend” in Yasser Arafat. The man who was scared to impose a tax on fruits and vegetables is going to go to war with Iran?
And Barak? He’s much worse. Barak is the man who tried at all costs to delay the bombing of the Syrian nuclear reactor in Deirez-Zor. Everything that has ever passed through Barak’s hands has ended up broken or burning or gone. See the State of Israel in 2001, see Camp David in 2000, see the Tze’elim Bet training accident, the second intifada, the flight from Lebanon, the lack of response following the abduction of three soldiers at Mount Dov.
Barak inherited a party in good standing from former Labor Chair Amir Peretz, and returned it in ruins. Barak received an IDF general staff in good shape from the same Peretz, and returned it in a state of enormous turmoil that has yet to die down. As defense minister, Barak failed to appoint a chief of staff. Barak tried to stop Operation Cast Lead (the 2008-09 Gaza War) after one day. It was enough for him. Barak thinks that the Second Lebanon War was a mistake, though it is thanks to that war that the north has enjoyed total quiet for the last six years. Is the man who didn’t want to take down a Syrian reactor in a simple surgical strike the same man who will lead the IDF in a complicated, critical and dangerous operation, 1,500 kilometers deep into Iran?
Does all of this mean that they are really bluffing? I don’t know. They have the right to bluff, and they have the right not to bluff. They should sit, discuss, go over information, and decide already. They are leaders, and the power is in their hands. For the moment, their "determination" amounts to bluster. From the outside, it seems like they are not being taken seriously inside Israel, nor the rest of the world for getting too worked up. Who knows, maybe in the end they’ll bomb Iran just to prove they were serious.