Israel’s game of bluff

Didi Remez has translated parts of a column by Nahum Barnea that appeared in Hebrew in Yediot‘s Friday political supplement. Barnea considers the assessments by Dr. Moshe Vered who published a study last year on possible scenarios that would result from an Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Barnea goes on to say:

The game is now approaching the critical stage, the “money time.” Netanyahu and Barak are waving the military card. “All the options are on the table,” they say, accompanying the sentence with a meaningful look. There are Israelis, in uniform and civilian clothes, who take them seriously. The Obama administration is troubled. It is no accident that US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen was sent here, to make it clear that the US was vetoing a military strike. It is no accident that Barak was invited to Washington and Vice President Biden will be coming here on Monday. He is not only coming to visit Yad Vashem.

I find it difficult to believe that Netanyahu will undertake such a weighty and dangerous decision. It is more reasonable to assume that he and Barak are playing “hold me back.” On the day they will be called upon to explain why Iran attained nuclear weapons, they will say, each on his own, what do you want from me, I prepared a daring, deadly, amazing operation, but they—the US administration, the top IDF brass, the forum of three, the forum of seven, the forum of ten—tripped me up. They are to blame.

Netanyahu and Barak know: there is no military operation more successful, more perfect, than an operation that did not take place.

Netanyahu has upgraded Ahmadinejad to the dimensions of a Hitler. Against Hitler, one fights to the last bunker. This is what Churchill did, and Netanyahu wants so badly to be like Churchill. His credibility—a sensitive issue—is on the table. If he retreats, the voters will turn their back on him. Where will he go? In his distress, he may run forward.

The fascinating side of this story is that very few Israelis would appear to believe their prime minister. If they believed him, they would not run in a frenzy to buy apartments in the towers sprouting like mushrooms around the Kirya. In the event that Iran should be bombed, the residents of the towers would be the first to get it. If they believed [Netanyahu], the real estate prices in Tel Aviv would drop to a quarter of their current value, and long lines of people applying for passports would extend outside the foreign embassies.

Given that, as Barnea notes, Israelis can tell Netanyahu is bluffing, there seems little reason to doubt that the Israeli prime minister’s bluff is equally transparent to both Washington and Tehran.

Washington feels obliged to play along in order to make the Israeli threat seem credible. Tehran in turn needs to show that it will not bow to foreign pressure and thus the likely effect of Israel’s threats is to make the Iranian nuclear program advance more quickly than it would have minus the pressure.

How can this possibly serve Israel’s interests? In terms of thwarting Iran’s nuclear program it doesn’t, but this is not the Jewish state’s primary goal. What it wants more than anything else is to promote division across the region and thereby undermine the power of the opponents of Zionism.

Come the day that “the Iranian threat” turns out to have been overstated, a new threat will emerge. Israel cannot survive without its beloved enemies.

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  1. Problem is that Israel by her behavior makes ever increasing enemies around the world. They are not beloved in any sense. Neither is AIPAC.