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Inside Bibi's mind is a war waiting to start

Netanyahu (and not just he) seems to have talked himself into believing a war with Iran will be relatively painless

The question of whether Israel will attack Iran or not has come down to a guessing game of what’s inside Bibi Netanyahu’s head. He’s certainly given every indication that he wants to do the deed. The idea that he’s bluffing is, I think, pretty stupid; he’s been talking about bombing Iran for 10 years, and he’s hardly alone among Israeli leaders. This has been building up for a long, long time, and now it’s here.

That Netanyahu would like to do it if Obama won’t, that he thinks it’s necessary for Israel’s survival – I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. But still, there are doubts remaining: Would he do it even over the Obama administration’s continual objections? And during a U.S. presidential election campaign, when the results of an Israeli attack could conceivably cost Obama the election, or bring Obama’s wrath down on Israel if he wins re-election, and meanwhile cause a backlash against Israel and American Jewry by an American public outraged over skyrocketing oil prices, the possible deaths of American soldiers in a widening war, and terror attacks against American civilians? 

Finally, does Bibi Netanyahu have the sheer balls for such an audacious move? Ariel Sharon once said publicly that he “lacks the sound judgment and iron nerves required of an Israeli prime minister. He panics under pressure.”

So even if it’s clear he wants to bomb Iran, will Bibi, under the highly strained circumstances and given his dubious character, actually pull the trigger on Iran sometime within the coming weeks or months? My guess is that he will. 

Regarding American opposition, Netanyahu went out of his way to dismiss it during his Knesset speech after his return from Washington, claiming that Ben-Gurion defied American opposition in declaring statehood in 1948, Eshkol did the same in launching the 1967 war, and Begin followed suit in 1981 by bombing Iraq’s nuclear reactor.  Bibi is at least fibbing in all three cases – Truman backed statehood in 1948, LBJ’s administration had no problem with the attack on Egypt in 1967, and Begin never told Reagan before ordering the attack on the Iraqi reactor.  The point is that Bibi has talked himself into believing this fib, so he thinks he wouldn’t be doing anything out of the ordinary by starting a war the White House opposes. 

As for screwing up Obama’s re-election plans, I don’t think there’s any doubt Netanyahu would consider that a collateral benefit of the war. And if Obama wins, Bibi likely figures the president is too much of a wuss and Israel is too popular in Congress for there to be any real danger of a second-term payback – and if this is what Bibi’s thinking, he’s probably right.

But maybe the clearest indicator that he’s set on giving the order to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, that he’s put his mind at ease about it, is the growing confidence among Israeli decision-makers (see links below) that attacking Iran isn’t such a risky move after all – that it will bring relatively little pain alongside colossal, history-changing gain.

The word from Jerusalem, reportedly, is that the Iranian missiles can’t do that much damage; that Hezbollah and Hamas will stay out of it for the sake of self-preservation; that Syria is otherwise engaged; that the Sunni Moslem Middle East in general will not cry over Shi’ite Iran’s misfortunes; that Iran wouldn’t dare strike U.S. targets in the Gulf; that it lacks the wherewithal to disrupt the world oil market; that Iran won’t be able to rebuild its nuclear facilities for five years; and there’s Bibi’s notion that an Israeli attack might lead to the overthrow of the Tehran regime by a more liberal, less dangerous opposition. In the wake of such a war, Israel and American Jewry wouldn’t be the world’s scapegoats, but the world’s heroes. 

On the basis of Bibi’s own statements and the off-the-record remarks of people around him, the above is what seems to be inside his head.

As for whether he’s got the balls for such a move, whether he’s more of a saber-rattler than actual warmaker, I think there is indeed a weakness of character in Bibi that would enable an intimidating U.S. president to intimidate him out of hitting Iran. Unfortunately, Barack Obama is not that president.

Decision time “is not in a matter of days or weeks, but it’s also not in a matter of years. Everyone understands this,” Netanyahu said after coming back from Washington two-and-a-half weeks ago.

By now, winter’s ended; the skies are clear. Our pilots can see their targets. It’s perfect weather for a war.

Aluf Benn’s op-ed

Ari Shavit on a high-level U.S.-Israeli meeting

Jeffrey Goldberg on his recent interviews with Israeli and U.S. leaders


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    1. Bill Pearlman

      One, Israel doesn’t have a big enough air force to pull this off. Second, if per chance this happens, and I don’t think bombing from the air is likely. It would be the most well telegraphed move in military history.

      Reply to Comment
    2. ginger

      Netanyahu is an unstable madman bent on attacking Iran in a desperate gambit to postpone the strategic debacle of Israel having to come to terms with dismantling the illegal occupation she has set and run as an Apartheid state for the last 60 yrs

      Everyone knows that this is why Bibi has been making such a big fuss about Iran – Bibi is nothing more than a sideshow magician trying to pull off a hand is quicker than the eye routine

      All of rightwing Israel gives Bibi enormous credit for having miraculously ‘changed the argument’ away from the endgame in Palestine and focused the whole world on whether or not Israel is irrational enough to start a major illegal war and drag much of the world into it as it does it

      The Trix rabbit says he’s not coming out of Bibi’s hat this time. Silly, mad Netanyahu

      Reply to Comment
    3. Steve

      Wow, GINGER is nuts.

      Netanyahu is NOT an “unstable madman.”
      And, Netanyahu’s consideration on what to do about Iran is because Iran is developing nuclear power and run by people who dream of wiping Israel off planet Earth.

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    4. Steve

      And as for Ginger’s wild ranting about “the endgame in Palestine,” let us know when Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah and other other powers that be who rule the Palestinians collectively declare a permanent peace with the Jewish state of Israel (and not some fake temporary “truce”), because that is when Israel can lower its defenses a bit and hand land control away.

      Reply to Comment
    5. aristeides

      Netanyahu is determined to paint a target on every Diaspora Jew. This is not incidental damage, it’s part of the plan, to foment violence against Jews so they’ll rush to the “safety” of Israel.

      And when all the world’s Jews are crowded into a single basket, and when there are no more Arabs for them to hide behind, what then? Netanyahu talks about preventing the “next Holocaust” but in fact, he’s setting it up.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Henry Weinstein

      But Larry, what’s inside Bibi and Co’s minds seems to me alas quite visible… outside, in their relentless propaganda to legitimize a military aggression: we just have to scrutinize what is the main goal of this brainwashing program, hammering by all means the Israeli opinion with the Threat Syndrome in their speeeches and in their media – sadly our only little hope is that they are doing this only to terrorize the Israeli people, that this is their recipe to stay in power.
      But I’m afraid they really want their war, considering the way they use any tragic event to depict Israel being on the point to be annihilate – see the political exploitation of the Toulouse killings.
      What would be more important to my opinion would be to say again and again – before it’s too late – how immoral and irrational it would be to bring the chaos in the region, gambling on a military strike on Iran’s nuclear sites.
      Is it this the best way to fight anti-semitism?
      Who sows wind will reap a storm.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Bill Pearlman

      Henry, Ginger, take valium, please.

      Reply to Comment
    8. aristeides

      If Israel is constantly on the verge of being annihilated, why should anyone move there?

      The fact that Zionists can’t seem to grasp this contradiction is just more evidence of their fundamental irrationality.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Bill Pearlman

      When you have a country that constantly spouts off about wiping Israel out. And they are on the verge of going nuclear. Well, its something to take seriously.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Henry Weinstein

      @ Bill Pearlman
      Doctor Feelgood, I don’t know if you look like Bibi Duck, walks like Bibi Duck, but dude you quacks just like Bibi Duck

      Reply to Comment
    11. Bill Pearlman

      Boy Henry, how long did it take for you to think that one up.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Philos

      Iran is the rational actor here. Israel is acting like the lunatic. Myopia prevents anyone from seeing that.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Piotr Berman

      “The word from Jerusalem” is a very good summary of assumptions that need to be made to seriously consider an attack on Iran, with some needed assumptions missing.

      The missing assumptions are the attitudes of Russia and China: to what extend are those two states opposed to a “preventative attack on Iran”? They are definitely opposed. They can lift restrictions on supplies of most modern weapons in their inventory, and these weapons can change strategic balance. They can give cover to the blockade of Hormuz using dire threats (military from Russia, financial from China). One can dwell on different scenarios, the bottom line is that USA can be neutralized as a military actor, and the potential downside for USA and the West in general is much bigger that some smallish Levantine country.

      Israeli have an exaggerated concept of American capabilities if they think that manipulating USA into entering a conflict with Iran will dispatch the most important opponent of Israel. Indeed, Israel has profound influence on internal politics in USA, but much less so in Europe and none at all in Russia, China and other major Asian countries. The simplest retaliations could go like that:

      1. Iran announces that until it will get satisfactory reparations and guarantees of the attack not happening again, it closes 50 miles of waters near its shores to military and commercial traffic, with exceptions of cargoes to countries that did not engage in economic aggression on the Islamic Republic (I am trying to approximate wording).

      2. Russia chimes in, supporting a more limited goal of getting reparations and making a threat that in case of any subsequent attack on the sovereign territory of Iran it will join Iran is solidarity embargo on the export of energy products, with similar exceptions.

      Note that no shot is fired. But what happens next? A quick tour by experts from insurance companies to compute the sum of damages inflicted on Iran, a triple bill submitted to Israel (punitive damages), bill paid and Hormuz opened within a week? Or a protracted stalemate?

      Reply to Comment
    14. aristeides

      There was a “report” recently that Iranian agents were planning an attack on an Israeli ship in the Suez. Sounds to me like someone cooking up a casus belli, an excuse to declare war on Iran. Getting the Israeli public worked up to a lather so they’ll support it.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Jack

      The demonstrations in Israel clearly shows the population nor the world wants war, the only man pushing for war is netayahu which pose the biggest threat to world peace. Shifting attention to Iran is a standard response to shift attention away from ongoing annexation and the nuclear weapons program at dimona.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Steve

      ARISTEIDES discussing Israel is like the KKK discussing black people.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Henry Weinstein

      @ Bill Pearlman
      3 seconds, in the toilets

      Reply to Comment
    18. henry

      “As for screwing up Obama’s re-election plans”

      I don’t know, man. I feel like this may be it. A go-it-alone Israeli act, given that the signals, even those from Israeli intelligence, are ambiguous at best (if by ‘best’ you mean ‘in favor of dropping bombs on people’) —

      Part of me genuinely feels like maybe the silver lining of such an obviously crazy act would be regular people, in Israel and America, saying, ‘gee, that just didn’t feel right — maybe i’m not a right-or-wrong-er.’

      The other part, of course, is like, FFFFFFUUUUUUUUU they’re just going to bomb them and people are going to applaud, aren’t they?

      Reply to Comment
    19. Henry

      “because that is when Israel can lower its defenses a bit and hand land control away.”

      Yeah, that’s exactly how it works: when everyone has assented to never do anything but hug you, THEN they’re allowed to have self-determination.

      Let me know how that works out. Oh wait, I have 50 years of history to let me know how it works out. Never mind.

      Reply to Comment
    20. henry

      “Boy Henry, how long did it take for you to think that one up.”

      None. Some other loon has been parrotting it for quite a while.

      YEAH! BIRDS!

      Reply to Comment
    21. Henry

      “Iran is the rational actor here. Israel is acting like the lunatic. Myopia prevents anyone from seeing that.”

      Jesus, dude, really? This is a discussion? ‘Bibi is insane!’ ‘No, all arabs want to wipe Israel off the map!’ You realize you’re Bill P’s closest ally on this board, right? The lunatic bellicose bomb-iran-ski? He LOVES you. Way to be, bro.

      Ahmedinajad is a desperate politician. Iran is not acting, it’s being dragged by internal forces. And while the ‘wiped off the map’ comment seems to have been at least a possible mis-translation, Iran has been behaving sort of dickishly, yes? Like, at best, they’re dicks without a nuclear bomb?

      Suggestion: let’s all cool our (can i say this?) fucking jets. I mean, if you have jets. If all you have is a nascent nuclear program, let’s cool that, too. No one’s acting rationally. Everyone’s swinging their dick around, seeing who they can intimidate. Let’s all be grown-ups, and not let any of these nutbags have their way, shall we?

      Reply to Comment
    22. Henry Weinstein

      To the shit who post bullshit tagged “Henry”:
      j’en ai rien à branler, trou du cul.

      Reply to Comment
    23. ToivoS

      I am gaining too much respect for Derfner to dismiss his predictions so I find this extremely depressing.

      An Israeli attack on Iran could go bad for so many reasons. The logistical problems are huge. One small miscalculation in the aerial refueling operation could result in instant failure. Iranian retaliation against US warships in the Persian Gulf could ignite full scale war that brings in Russia and China. Scenarios that end in nuclear war are not difficult to conceive. The dangers are many. Even with the rosiest scenario, Israel comes out of this with prospect of setting back Iran’s nuclear program for a year or so. Israel is willing to risk WWIII for such meager gains.

      For Bibi and Barak to even think in these terms makes it clear that their grasp of reality should be diagnosed with the clinically insane. Let us hope they are bluffing, that makes them somewhat more rational. But when they do nothing in the end they will just look like a couple of blustering buffoons.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Bill Pearlman

      “3 seconds in the toilets” Totally lost me in that one. Is that some sort of French insult?

      Reply to Comment
    25. Henry Weinstein

      @ Bill Pearlman
      It said it didn’t took me more than 3 seconds, and that your comments on this thread are like the duck rethoric.
      “3 seconds in the toilets” is spoken French, it only says it didn’t take me long to dig this. It’s familar, not an insult.
      I lost my time, 3 seconds.

      Reply to Comment
    26. Henry Weinstein


      Reply to Comment
    27. aristeides

      Toivos – I find the most compelling argument that they will indeed bomb Iran is that, if they don’t, they’ll look like a couple of blustering buffoons. They’ll do it just to save face.

      The only game piece still missing is the trigger that will place the blame on Iran.

      In the meantime, here in the US, it is forbidden to say that Israeli warmongering is behind the current high gasoline prices. All the blame, already, must fall on the scapegoat Iran.

      Reply to Comment
    28. Bill Pearlman

      Gas prices are a function world wide demand and an easy money fed policy. Not everything is a protocols of the elders of zion moment.

      Reply to Comment
    29. John Yorke

      We have fear and suspicion, we have uncertainty; there are doubts and misgivings everywhere. One mistake, one error in judgement and the situation, as bad as it is now, can so easily be made that much worse.

      Where is our plan to deal with this sort of eventuality, this impending crisis that has been on the cards for the best part of three decades?

      What! There isn’t one? How can that be?
      What have we been doing all this time? Didn’t we see this coming and shouldn’t we have dealt with it long before now? And is there still any way left to make matters right before it’s all too late?


      Reply to Comment
    30. GINGER “Netanyahu is an unstable madman bent on attacking Iran” Bibis so concern about Irans nuclear power… in the same way he was with Iraq’s nuclear power. One long war later, Hussein’s dead, people killed on both sides (USA and Iraq) and the painful truth – Iraq didnt have a nuclear power. So Iraqe President was hung and people were killed because Bibi was concerned? When informed about this Bush stated; Well shit happens!
      Will Obama allow ‘shit to happen’ one more time? Dont know. Bibi’s war criminal in the same way as all Israels Presidents. But I dont blame ANY of them. Nobody ever asked what are the consequences of Aushwitz massacre on Jewish Race. i think that whats happen were never fully investigated, Jewish never received any therapy. Their state of mind were never question appropriately. Just think that once released from concentration camps they jumped into war with Palestine… 60 looong years and its not enough Now is Iran that has to suffer. Entire world’s involved. I see Israel as the global threat for the world peace.
      I see jewish race as the race that is abused or they abused.. Theres no middle. Dangerous.
      ps. I’m Christian from Italy, have nothing to do with Jews or muslims.

      Reply to Comment
    31. Robert


      Right On, you are correct. And Steve, you are incorrect. You talk about Iran talking incessantly about wiping Israel off the map, when they did no such thing.

      Check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mScWWtRfGQ

      Iran is a big deal because it threatens Israel’s military hegemony in the region. The fact that Israel is committing Apartheid in the Territories, and Jim Crow in pre-67 Israel, is more and more damaging. The war with Iran is *the way* to take it off the front pages.

      Report on Apartheid in the OPT from South Africa

      Reply to Comment
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