Exceptionalism takes many forms but perhaps its most universal expression can be found among politicians and petty criminals. When contemplating doing something really stupid, they have an unusual capacity to become convinced that nothing can go wrong.
When it comes to Israel’s view of Iran, the contradictions seem boundless. The Islamic republic is the modern equivalent of Nazi Germany, Netanyahu and others like to say. But as for the risks involved in attacking Iran, the same fear-mongers claim that these risks have all been wildly overstated.
The lesson of the Holocaust, Netanyahu says, is: “We can only rely on ourselves.” So why does Israel still accept massive amounts of U.S. military aid and the support of such a powerful lobby in Washington?
The New York Times reports: Israeli intelligence estimates, backed by academic studies, have cast doubt on the widespread assumption that a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities would set off a catastrophic set of events like a regional conflagration, widespread acts of terrorism and sky-high oil prices.
The estimates, which have been largely adopted by the country’s most senior officials, conclude that the threat of Iranian retaliation is partly bluff. They are playing an important role in Israel’s calculation of whether ultimately to strike Iran, or to try to persuade the United States to do so, even as Tehran faces tough new economic sanctions from the West.
“A war is no picnic,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio in November. But if Israel feels itself forced into action, the retaliation would be bearable, he said. “There will not be 100,000 dead or 10,000 dead or 1,000 dead. The state of Israel will not be destroyed.”
The Iranian government, which says its nuclear program is for civilian purposes, has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz — through which 90 percent of gulf oil passes — and if attacked, to retaliate with all its military might.
But Israeli assessments reject the threats as overblown. Mr. Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have embraced those analyses as they focus on how to stop what they view as Iran’s determination to obtain nuclear weapons.