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Israel’s Military Option By: P. David Hornik
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, April 22, 2009

“The Israeli military is preparing itself to launch a massive aerial assault on Iran’s nuclear facilities within days of being given the go-ahead by its new government,” the London Times announced over the weekend.

The report appears to cite three different anonymous Israeli officials who—or some of whom—were likely the motive force behind the article. One, a “senior defense” figure, asserts that Israeli forces “are making preparations on every level for this eventuality [of a “massive aerial assault”]. The message to Iran is that the threat is not just words.”

An intelligence official also tells the Times that “We would not make the threat [against Iran] without the force to back it. There has been a recent move, a number of on-the-ground preparations, that indicate Israel’s willingness to act.”

And what appears to be another defense official states: “Israel has made it clear that it will not tolerate the threat of a nuclear Iran. According to Israeli intelligence they will have the bomb within two years.... Once they have a bomb it will be too late, and Israel will have no choice [but] to strike—with or without America.”

In other words, saber-rattling—and it’s impossible to know at what level of the Israeli defense or political establishment the leaks were authorized.

One of the article’s openly identified sources—Ephraim Kam, deputy director of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies—sounds a more cautious note in saying that “The American defense establishment is unsure that the operation will be successful. And the results of the operation would only delay Iran’s program by two to four years.”

Kam confirms, though, that “Many of the leaks or statements made by Israeli leaders and military commanders are meant for deterrence” and adds: “The message is that if [the international community] is unable to solve the problem they need to take into account that we will solve it our way.”

Amos Harel, military analyst of the Israeli daily Haaretz, also focuses on the much-reported Israeli-American friction on this issue and notes that “The timing of [the] Times of London article…is certainly no coincidence. Israel is trying to make clear that even though the United States plans to begin a diplomatic dialogue with Iran, it holds a realistic military option against Tehran’s nuclear program. Without a deal that assuages Israel’s concerns, there may be no other choice but to attack.”

Harel also states that “Most senior [Israeli] defense figures believe that nothing positive will result from the dialogue between Washington and Tehran”—and hence Israel’s defense establishment is “continuing…its signals to the international community and Iran that [Israel’s] plan [for an attack] is serious and feasible.”

Harel mentions as well the familiar U.S.-Israeli disagreement on timing, “with Israel stressing 2010” as “the year Iran will be a nuclear country” and “Secretary of Defense Robert Gates—2013.” The disharmony was only exacerbated by Vice-President Joe Biden’s recent statement that Israel would be “ill-advised” to attack Iran and that “I don’t believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu would do that.”

The London Times article also notes that “Israel has made public its intention to hold the largest-ever nationwide [civil defense] drill next month,” and here too a Haaretz report elaborates, quoting the head of the Home Front Command: “in wartime there will be insufficient [ambulance], rescue and chemical and biological warfare units…. We need to train for a reality in which during war missiles can fall on any part of the country without warning.”

The drill, the Haaretz report claims, “is scheduled to last an entire week and test a series of scenarios that include missile strikes with conventional and non-conventional warheads, fired by Hezbollah, Syria or Hamas”—mentioning Iran’s allies and proxies that are well positioned to inflict retaliatory damage in case of an Israeli strike.

It is not lost on Israelis that these mounting rumors, preparations, and international frictions coincide with Holocaust Day on Tuesday and with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s address to the Durban II conference in Geneva on Monday.

That nine other Western countries have joined Israel in boycotting the conference, and other Western delegates left the hall during the Iranian leader’s harangue, are welcome developments. More welcome, though, would have been any real determination to stop Iran’s march toward nuclearization.

A world, in other words, where not much changes and too much remains the same, and the Israeli air force keeps training.

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva. He blogs at http://pdavidhornik.typepad.com/. He can be reached at pdavidh2001@yahoo.com.

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