In a thought-provoking column, Yossi Klein Halevi examines Israeli opinion on the most critical issue of the day. ( No, James Jones, it’s not the “peace process” — it’s the existential threat to Israel and the prospect of a revolutionary Islamic state armed with nuclear weapons.) On the issue of whether Israel should employ military power and whether it will succeed, Halevi writes:
As sanctions efforts faltered, most Israelis came to answer the first question affirmatively. … A regime that assembles the world’s crackpots to deny the most documented atrocity in history—at the very moment it is trying to fend off sanctions and convince the international community of its sanity—may well be immune to rational self-interest.
Opinion here has been divided about the ability of an Israeli strike to significantly delay Iran’s nuclear program. But Israelis have dealt with their doubts by resurrecting a phrase from the country’s early years: Ein breira, there’s no choice. Besides, as one leading Israeli security official who has been involved in the Iranian issue for many years put it to me, “Technical problems have technical solutions.” Israelis tend to trust their strategic planners to find those solutions.
As for the willingness of the U.S. to use military force, he mulls whether the engagement gambit has effectively put the kibosh on a U.S. military option. Well, it certainly has thrown a wrench into the plans of those who envisioned us proceeding neatly from negotiation to sanctions. We are into the vortex of endless haggling. And we have the never-ending trickle of pronouncements from Obama officials, advising us that military options have their limitations (whereas quibbling with the Iranians has no limitations — or endpoint).
All signs point to the argument of inevitability. You can see the wheels in motion. We talked. We tried. Now they have nuclear arms. The alternatives are horrible. We can live with this, manage the threat. After all, look what a productive relationship we’re establishing with the regime! That’s what you see and hear underlying each move by the Obama team. No regime change — the democratic protesters are the fly at the engagement picnic. No sanctions right now — we’re negotiating. No big deal about Qom — the public may be alarmed we let this slide by. Don’t hold to any deadlines — we might reach a point of confrontation.
We can argue about just how naive the Obami are — or how compliant they think the American public may be when presented with the news that Iran has gone nuclear — but the Israelis don’t have the luxury of deluding themselves about the Obama administration’s game plan. It isn’t one designed to eliminate the Iranian nuclear threat at all costs.