Israeli Elections Called Off

About five minutes after calling elections for early September, Israeli Prime Mininster Benjamin Netanyahu has abruptly called them off.

Netanyahu has made a deal with the new leader of the Kadima Party, Shaul Mofaz, to have Kadima join Netanyahu’s coalition.  Mofaz will be Deputy Prime Minister.  Kadima was poised to lose many seats in the upcoming election.

So with Kadima joining Likud, it means there’s really no center in Israel right now, just a left and a right.

Not sure what this means in terms of a strike against Iran.  Mofaz has been among those expressing disapproval of a unilateral strike.

Israelis Don’t Support Iran Strike Without U. S.

A new Jerusalem Post poll shows that a majority of Israelis support an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities if the U. S. leads, but only a minority support an attack by Israel alone.

This comes at a time when some top current and former Israeli officials are publicly opposing an attack, and when it seems clear that Benjamin Netanyahu will need to hold elections this fall, rather than next year as he had planned.

The former head of Israel’s domestic security service, Yuval Diskin, recently said that Netanyahu and his defense minister, Ehud Barak, can’t be trusted on Iran because they are moved by “messianic feelings.”

The current army chief of staff, Benny Gantz, said that the Iranian threat is less imminent than Netanyahu suggests, and that he believes Iran has not yet decided whether or not to build a nuclear bomb.

Where Is Israel on Iran?

Reports are coming out that the U. S. and Israel are on the same page that Iran has not yet decided to build a nuclear weapon.  I find this hard to believe, both that Israel and the U. S. agree, and that Iran has not yet decided.

Till very recently, there have been three significant issues dividing the U. S. and Israel about Iran.

First is a purely operational one — the fact that the U. S. has superior ability to strike Iran and thus can delay longer.  Israel has a more limited window to bomb before Iran enters what Israel calls a” zone of immunity,” when an attack won’t be able to stop Iran from making a nuclear weapon.  Since Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent meeting with President Obama, there have been reports that Obama promised Israel more re-fueling tankers and bunker-busting bombs.  My sense is that this upgrade would narrow the gap between American and Israeli capability, but not eliminate it.

Second is the trigger event for an attack.  The U. S. says that it wants to stop Iran from actually making a bomb, Israel says that it wants to stop Iran from having the ability to make a bomb.

Third is the analysis of Iran’s thinking.  Since 2007, the U. S. National Intelligence Estimate, the consensus of our intelligence agencies, has been that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program and has not decided to re-start it.  The Israeli view has been that Iran has decided to make nuclear weapons and is moving forward.

Now we’re hearing that Israel has changed its view on the third issue, Iran’s intent.  This just rings false to me, and I wonder if these reports are coming out because Israel believes that everyone expects it to attack soon, and it needs to send such contrary messages to lower those expectations and regain some element of surprise.

I say this because even if Israel believes Iran hasn’t decided, that still doesn’t solve issue two — Israel’s determination that Iran not have the ability to make a weapon.  Under that criterion, an Israeli attack could come any day.


Did Obama Offer Israel Advanced Weapons to Delay Iran Attack?

An Israeli newspaper, Maariv, claims that President Obama offered Prime Minister Netanyahu more advanced weapons (bunker-busting bombs and refueling planes) to delay an attack on Iran’s nuclear installations until next year (after our election).

Previous reports have said that Israel sees a window of about six to nine months to attack Iran before it enters a “zone of immunity,” where Israel’s existing weapons won’t be able to stop Iran’s production of a nuclear weapon because so much of Iran’s nuclear program will have gone deep underground.  That window won’t last until 2013.

This reported offer certainly makes sense.  One of the issues creating a difference between Israel and the U. S. is the window for an effective attack, since our superior weaponry lets us postpone a strike longer.  Giving Israel a capability closer to ours buys them more time.

Quote of the Day

“Iran is the most irresponsible force in the world.  I hope the sanctions will have an effect, but so far they have not.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to Cyprus.

I don’t think it’s a question of if Israel will strike Iran, just when.  We’re just spinning our wheels with sanctions — and they’re spinning centrifuges.

Allowing Iran to get nuclear weapons would be an enormous setback in the war on terror, a war in which President Obama can proudly claim many successes.