David Calling

The David Pryce-Jones blog.

Netanyahu’s Existential Choice


 I wouldn’t like to be in Bibi Netanyahu’s shoes right now. The moment is approaching when finally Iran possesses a weaponized nuclear bomb and is in a position to carry out its repeated threat to wipe Israel off the map, or clandestinely pass the bomb to a terrorist proxy like Hezbollah. World opinion invariably condemns Israel’s measures of self-defense as aggression. Iranian nuclear production is scattered over more than twenty sites, some of them deep underground and all well fortified. Partially successful military measures might commit Israel to all manner of reprisals. The fate of the Jews, then, rests on decisions that Netanyahu will have to take.

The fundamental ideology of the state of Israel is that Jews can rely only on themselves. It is obvious from hints dropped that Netanyahu perceives Barack Obama as a typical false friend of the Jews, deceiving them with promises of support that he has no intention of delivering. Obama plays up shamelessly to the ayatollahs of Iran, even when they rig elections and silence opponents, if necessary by murder. American (and European) policy of using sanctions to persuade Iran to drop its nuclear ambition is too half-hearted, too selective, and too pathetic to amount to more than make-believe. The latest agreed sanctions to suspend buying Iranian oil are not to apply until July, for instance, and ignore the willingness of China, Russia, and India to carry on buying regardless. Just a placebo, in fact, and quite probably designed to give Israel an impression of activity enough to stop it from attacking Iran. And if by July the Iranians still need more time they will offer to negotiate, and yet again prove that their diplomacy makes rings round everyone else.

According to the Washington Post, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta believes there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran this April, May, or June. It is hard to work out whether the primary intention here is to warn Iran or to thwart Israel. The New York Times has just carried a long article by Ronen Bergman, a very well-informed security expert who has done a number of high-level interviews with politicians and soldiers, though not with Netanyahu. On balance, he too thinks that an Israeli attack will soon occur. On the other hand, the prolific and equally well-informed Professor Barry Rubin puts his foot down firmly that there will be no attack.

Out of this confusion Netanyahu has to come to a conclusion with existential dimensions. Only someone with a sense of destiny could do that.


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