The Associated Press reports: An Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear program could trigger a bloody monthlong war on multiple fronts, killing hundreds of Israelis or more, the Israeli Cabinet’s civil defense chief warned in an interview published Wednesday.
It was the most explicit assessment yet of how the government sees events unfolding in the aftermath of an Israeli attack.
Matan Vilnai, who is stepping down as the “home front” Cabinet minister to become Israel’s ambassador to China, described the scenarios to Israel’s Maariv daily at a time of heightened debate about the Iranian nuclear threat.
Vilnai, a retired general who was deputy military chief of staff, has spent the past five years overseeing upgrades of Israel’s civil defense systems, including air-raid sirens, bomb shelters and a public alert system.
In the Maariv interview, Vilnai said “the home front is ready as never before.” Nonetheless, he said the country must be braced for heavy casualties in the case of conflict with Iran.
Vilnai said the government has prepared for the possibility of hundreds of rockets and missiles falling on Israeli population centers each day, with the expectation of 500 deaths.
“It could be that there will be fewer fatalities, but it could be there will be more. That is the scenario that we are preparing for according to the best experts,” he said. “The assessments are for a war that will last 30 days on a number of fronts.”
Reuters adds: Martin van Creveld, a military historian who is critical of the Netanyahu government’s Iran posture, posited a deterioration in Israel’s fitness to confront an enemy state since it absorbed Iraqi missile salvoes in the 1991 Gulf war.
“More than 20 years of fighting the weak has bred in Israel a revolting blend of aggression and self-pity,” he said, referring to outgunned Lebanese and Palestinians.
Van Creveld questioned whether Israeli morale was prepared for the costs of an Iran war, such as downed pilots. But retired air force chief David Ivry, who masterminded Israel’s 1981 bombing of Iraq’s atomic reactor, dismissed such pessimism.
Even were Iran to take 10 pilots captive, he said, “we’ll free 10,000 prisoners to get them back. If the country decides that its national security is at stake, then the price is paid.”
Philip Handleman, U.S.-based co-author of “Air Combat Reader – Historic Feats and Aviation Legends”, said he believed Israel was willing to tackle Iran though bereft of the long-range bombers and refueling planes available to the Americans.
“I don’t think Israel would be ‘banking on’ subsequent U.S. military involvement, though that might very well happen. If Israel strikes, it would be out of a pureness of heart, a very primordial survivalist instinct,” Handleman said.
Israel’s resilience has been underestimated in the past.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah used to compare it to a “spider’s web” – easily blown away. Then Hezbollah triggered the 2006 war with a cross-border raid which Nasrallah later rued, saying he would not have ordered it had he known Israel’s response would be that fierce.
There is ample indication Israel would similarly try to hit Iran and its allies hard and fast, hoping to curtail the fight.
“War is difficult and sad, and when it is unavoidable it should be embarked upon with all capabilities utilized so as not to become its victim,” Shimon Peres, Israel’s president and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, wrote in a weekend newspaper essay.