Richard Beeston, of the London Times, is old enough to remember what happened back in 1981, when Israel bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor. First, an Israeli went around to all the allied countries, warning that somebody had better do something soon. Nobody did. So the Israelis did it by themselves.
Beeston retells that story in the process of warning us that the Israelis have been doing the same thing of late, this time with regard to the Iranian nuclear project. He thinks that the new Israeli government has at least three men who are experienced in dangerous operations. He notes that Israel just attacked an Iranian convoy in Sudan that was headed for Gaza, and the Israeli planes had to fly farther than is required to attack the nuclear facility in Natanz. He concludes by saying that Israel won’t attack without at least “tacit American approval,” but warns that time is running out.
I can add another piece to his jigsaw puzzle. At the time of the attack on the Iraqi facility, I was Special Adviser to the Secretary of State (the same title that Dennis Ross holds today), and it was quite clear that nobody in the U.S. Government knew that attack was coming. Menachem Begin didn’t ask for permission, and while there were some top Americans who were irked that they hadn’t received advance warning, I didn’t hear anybody say that the Israelis needed our approval, tacit or explicit.
If the Israelis think that Iran is likely to nuke them, I can’t imagine why they would feel constrained by American wishes. Good relations aren’t a suicide pact, after all. I doubt that the Israelis will ask any such question, in keeping with the old adage, don’t ask the question if you don’t want to hear the answer.
It’s clear that the “Western world” has no intention of doing anything serious about Iran. I rather suspect that many European countries would be pleased if Israel managed to do effective damage to Iran’s nuclear program, and I’m quite sure that many Arab countries would privately cheer the event. I really don’t know what the president and his various czars would think, although they would undoubtedly join in the chorus of denunciation.
But none of that really matters if you’re Israel, and you are convinced that Iran is very close to removing you from the map.