Netanyahu’s empty gun: War with Iran seems less and less likely

Noam Sheizaf lays out the reasons why, in spite of the rhetoric of Israel’s prime minister and defense minister, he believes an attack on Iran won’t come this fall, and probably not at all.

The debate is becoming very political. Leading Israeli politicians – Shimon Peres and Shaul Mofaz being two examples from this week – are taking a public stand against the attack. This is very uncommon in Israeli political culture when real wars are on the line. I think that the political system is sensing that Netanyahu is bluffing.

The voices coming from Barak and Netanyahu feel more like a lament, rather than actual mobilisation for war. Nahum Barnea of Yedioth Ahronoth, who was one of the authors’ of last week’s expose on Barak’s effort to get the army to support the war, wrote in an op-ed on Monday that he got the feeling Barak was preparing his “I told you so” argument for the next elections. It makes sense.

By leading the camp of hawks on Iran, Netanyahu and Barak are making sure that nobody can accuse them in the future of not being active enough. Barak was criticised in the past of his alleged opposition to the strike on the Syrian nuclear facilities committed by the Olmert government. He won’t let that happen again.

Barak didn’t fire or replace any of the generals that opposed the war (or more importantly, leaked their positions to the media). I don’t think that any officer would refuse the order to attack, but a reluctant military is a real problem for the defense minister. Could Iraq have happened if the entire military was against it, unanimously and publicly?

The window for an attack is here, yet nobody seems to care. Life goes on as usual. No foreign country has issued travel warnings for the next three months. No events were cancelled. Maybe I am over-speculating here, but if the United States was truly convinced that an attack is imminent, evacuating citizens or simply warning those planning to travel seems like the obvious thing to do, no? Even the not-so-apocalyptic scenarios Barak is throwing around (300-500 civilian casualties) should make the diplomatic corps or the Birthright kids disappear back home. As it happens, they are all still on the Tel Aviv beach.

Civil Defense preparations are not taking place outside the army, the public wasn’t instructed to prepare bomb shelters, and the minister for home front defense was even replaced this week. The army’s civil defense corps is currently airing a prime time TV commercial regarding… what to do in the event of an earthquake.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email