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Finally, Iran plan wakes Israel up to "the Israeli threat"

A storm of protest has arisen against a plan by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. This has been the Israeli media’s finest hour, and it started with a great journalist’s column.

In all the rising volume over Netanyahu and Barak’s plot to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilties, by far the most important sound in the air is silence – the silence of the heads of the IDF, IDF Intelligence, Mossad and Shin Bet. In his Friday column that broke it all open, Nahum Barnea wrote in Yediot Aharonot that the four security/intelligence chiefs – Benny Gantz (IDF), Aviv Cochavi (IDF Intelligence), Tamir Pardo (Mossad) and Yoram Cohen (Shin Bet) were all opposed to an attack. Since then, none of them have denied it, none of them or “sources close to” them have said a word. Which means it’s confirmed – all four leaders of Israel’s professional military-intelligence establishment are against bombing Iran.

Which means it ain’t gonna happen, at least not until further notice. The prime minister and defense minister can’t overrule the unanimous opinion of Israel’s war council – especially when all four of their immediate predecessors, led by ex-Mossad chief Meir Dagan, are also against it.

And here’s the latest good news: According to Ha’aretz, Netanyahu and Barak have found a third stooge: Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has changed his mind and now he, too, wants to attack. In the eyes of the world and most of the Israeli mainstream, no further proof is needed that this is an insane idea. Netanyahu and Barak could not have found themselves a worse reference.

They’re freaking out in Jerusalem over the shitstorm that Barnea’s “Atomic pressure” column started. “All sorts of systems and people have gone mad. This has no logical explanation or precedent,” Lieberman told IDF Radio. Dan Meridor, the proper, level-headed minister of intelligence and atomic energy, made Ma’ariv’s top story today by saying, “Anat Kamm [just imprisoned for 4-1/2 years for leaking classified IDF documents to a journalist] is nothing compared to what’s happening here. This is really crazy. I don’t think there’s ever been a public discussion like this.” (Meridor, however, reportedly opposes an Israeli attack on Iran, preferring that the U.S. do it.)

Lieberman and Meridor could be right about one thing: The reaction to Barnea’s column may be unprecedented; I can’t remember a newspaper article ever blowing the lid off such a supremely important issue so dramatically. On Friday he wrote: “The issue of whether to attack Iran is at the bottom of the Israeli discourse.” Never again, though. When Netanyahu made a brief mention of Iran at the opening of the Knesset winter session, Labor leader Sheli Yehimovich called out that he and Barak were plotting a “megalomaniacal adventure.” Opposition leader Tzipi Livni, also very proper, level-headed and ineffectual, counseled Bibi to “pay attention to the heads of the defense establishment…also on the issue of the Iranian threat.” Labor elder statesman and former defense minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said it best, telling a party meeting: “Every citizen in the country has to be worried that these two fools, Netanyahu and Barak, are planning an attack on Iran.”

Yediot Aharonot, the largest-selling paper in the country, a tabloid that combines a modest amount of really good journalism with a ton of pandering garbage, has this time lived up to its self-styled brand as the “the newspaper of the nation.” After Barnea’s column, the paper ran a story by its intelligence reporter headlined, “Attack on Iran: The day after – Missiles and rockets on Israeli cities, terror attacks on dozens of Israeli targets worldwide, Israeli pilots in interrogation rooms of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards: How the Middle East could look the day after an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.”

Then the paper ran a story by its military reporter on the fears in Washington, which carried the extraordinary headline: “The Israeli threat.” Yediot columnists, including Barnea again, also weighed in on the possible consequences of Bibi and Barak’s (and now Lieberman’s) caper.

Channel 2, which has the Israeli TV news audience almost all to itself, joined in. It broadcast the influential cabinet minister Eli Yishai telling Shas party activists that he’s “losing sleep” over what could happen after Israel hits Iran: “Imagine [attacks] from the north, the south and the center, they have short-range and long-range missiles. In our estimate, 100,000 missiles and rockets.”

Finally, it’s happened. After years of hearing and talking about nothing but the potential danger of a nuclear Iran, this country is hearing and talking about the potential danger of trying to pre-empt that first danger with fighter bombers. We’re hearing not just about “the Iranian threat,” but about “the Israeli threat,” too. And after years of listening to the hasbara king talk about Hitler and 1938 and Holocaust déjà vu, the Israeli public is hearing, indirectly, from the people they trust more than the politicians – the professionals, the career warriors and spies – and the word they’re hearing from those tough guys is a very loud, urgent “NO.”

Meanwhile, the whole world is watching, and the whole world of course is also thinking “NO.” I don’t see how Bibi and Barak are going to pull this off. I think it’s impossible. One thing for sure – I’ve never seen the Israeli media, starting with Yediot Aharanot, do its job like it’s doing now. There’s no way to overstate the importance of this sudden reversal of Israel’s blind march to catastrophe behind those two bloody fools.

And it was started by the political writer I always thought of as Israel’s Orwell. He lost his voice after Operation Cast Lead, which he supported, but now he’s got it back. If you’re looking for journalistic heroes, you can have Woodward and Bernstein; I’ll take Nahum Barnea.

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    1. Jenny Kastner

      Appreciate the article, but really! “Ultra-liberal Zionist” is an impossible oxymoron. How much pain you must suffer from twisting yourself into such an illogical pretzel!

      Reply to Comment
    2. What other people call pain, I call fun. 🙂

      Reply to Comment
    3. Ben Israel

      Barak is a bungler and an incompetant fool. His career as Prime Minister and Defense Minister is one long record of one disaster after another. It is amazing that after he led Israel into the terrible suicide bomber war and two disastrous electoral defeats he is still around.
      In any event, he and his predecessors worked hard to destroy the IDF’s fighting ability, particularly in large, complex operations. Thus, I find it impossible to think that this defeatist would even contemplate an attack on Iran. Bibi would never dream of acting on his own, being from the Likud he would be an international pariah if he were to start a war, so he must hide behind Barak’s skirts. (Olmert could start two wars since he is from the ‘peace camp’).I don’t know why we keep hearing all these reports, but it just doesn’t make any sense to think they would really want to start a war with Iran.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Rachelle Pachtman

      Thanks for this important piece. My personal hypothesis (and fervent hope) is that these two do not have a death wish for the state of Israel and that this is just the usual “saber-rattling.” There’s another more graphic term to describe this macho posturing but I won’t use it in a public forum.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Y.

      I have never expected an Israeli attack on Iran, but this is ridiculous.
      First, the government is the one making decisions here. It could easily order an attack on Iran tomorrow, and none of the yammering would make any difference. The IDF would follow orders, and those that don’t will be removed.
      Second, there can be (and is no) “public discussion” here, since the public can’t know anything of significance, and we wouldn’t be able to make any related decision public. What we have here is scaremongering (all of which relies on secret data and speculations) by everyone, especially Yedioth which used to scaremonger for the other side too. It is particularly noteworthy that Yedioth wouldn’t publish support for an attack right now, and YH wouldn’t publish opposition (or anything too different than “there’s no room for discussion”). That’s no discussion.
      In short, all we have here is a typical self-congratulation session of the Israeli media, plus a typical scaremongering session. Nothing much has changed, save for perhaps Lieberman’s vote change. If Bibi and Barak really plan an attack (which I strongly doubt), than they are a bit closer than they were a week ago.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Richard Witty

      I hope your opinion of the decision is accurate.

      I didn’t believe that the Barnea article represented anything substantive, until Barak publicly stated “well, we’re not really sure”, indicating that it was being actively proposed, not just an academic possibility.

      Reply to Comment
    7. AT

      My guess is B & B are stirring up a tempest in a teapot to help the US pressure holdouts on Iran sanctions – “see [says Obama], we can barely restrain our mad dog so you better support sanctions before all hell breaks loose” Good cop bad cop tactics, in other words.

      Reply to Comment
    8. SIREN

      Fabulous analysis,a port in the storm of mass hysteria, and I too hope your opinion is accurate.. Thank you Larry.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Elisabeth

      Jenny: “twisting yourself into an illogical pretzel”
      That expression will stay with me. Absolutely terrific.

      And Larry: Your post gives me hope.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Ginger

      It’s amazing that Israel expects no counterattack to be substantive as they go ahead with plans to decapitate the Iranian civilian nuclear program.

      Of course then again, no one is talking about the Palestinian state declaration anymore and whether Apartheid will be sued into oblivion at the ICC.

      Maybe Bibi feels he has nothing left to lose with the Palestinian state moving forward and so why not just kick the chessboard and attack Iran.

      If Iran had enough deterrence capabilities to completely remove Dimona and any number of other targets would Bibi be as sanguine?

      What’s the diff between Saddam Hussein attacking Kuwait and Bibi attacking Iran?

      What price could Israel be made to pay if it belligerently attacks Iran?

      Reply to Comment
    11. How are we to evaluate what is still only a future possibility at this stage?

      Are we looking at a practical proposition here, a firm intention to escalate the conflict or is it just one more example of sabre-rattling? The truth is that we may never know unless the deed is actually done. And, if this does happen, then what outcome can we expect?
      Perhaps we should be looking at what would be the worst-case scenario and trying to see where that would lead us.

      Let’s say Israel decides to bomb Iran’s nascent nuclear weapons facilities and, assuming a successful strike can be and is carried out, how will the situation stand then? Not in a good place, that’s for sure.
      The Arab-Israeli divide would yawn even wider than before, Western relationships in many Arab countries could be put under enormous strain and Iran’s response will be very unlikely to improve matters one little bit.

      The problems, as ever, are long-term (nuclear) security from Israel’s point of view and Iran’s refusal to accept Israel as a legitimately installed country with no more territorial ambitions whatsover. Not exactly a marriage made in Heaven, is it?

      So what to do? If nothing is done, then things will simply go from bad to worse with everything just hanging fire, waiting for whatever flare-up ignites the next round of hostilities. This, essentially, is the position as it has been for the past 63 years. In all that time, no active arrangement has been installed that will address any of the fundamental issues, no real counter-balance to mitigate against all the curves thrown at us by this continual crisis. It controls our actions – or lack thereof; we never seem able to control it.

      Isn’t it about time we did something other than meekly accept our inadequacy in the face of such obdurate circumstances?

      Doing something is better than doing nothing; it shows we’re interested and want to help. That, at the very least, should be our primary objective.

      Reply to Comment
    12. aristeides

      I wish the United States would wake up to the Israeli Threat

      Reply to Comment
    13. Richard Witty

      This is NOT insignificant.


      I couldn’t find publication of the actual report. I’m sure it will be up soon.

      Why is 972 not discussing this? Surely it is critical news development.

      Two things should be discussed.

      1. The politics of it (that’s being discussed ad nauseum on various blogs, Mondoweiss, MJ Rosenberg, others)

      2. The substance of the arguments, relative to the US and to Israel. Why consider attacking Iran at all? Why should Israel or Iran not attack Iran?

      What are the geo-political interrelated themes?

      What is the better argument?

      Reply to Comment