Israel and Iran are in the news again.
An anonymous source in the Israeli government told Ha’aretz yesterday that President Benjamin Netenyahu is trying to persuade the Israeli cabinet to authorize an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Although the same source claimed that the majority of the cabinet is against the idea, is it still a worrying sign?
Although Iran claims its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes, Tehran’s overt and covert support for terror attacks against Israeli targets is a legitimate cause for concern for Jerusalem. However, circumstances at this moment in time are completely against any such attack. Even Israelis, whose lives the Netenyahu government believes to be in mortal danger, aren’t fully behind the idea: in a poll published by Ha’aretz today, only 41% support such an attack, while 39% oppose it.
Whether Bibi is convincing his Cabinet that an attack is necessary is an open question. Stories about Israel’s intentions to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities have circulated for years. These stories usually come at times when the world is too busy to pay heed to Israel’s security needs. We are currently in such a period.
The world’s economy is teetering on the brink., with the European Union tied up over the bailout of Greece and the US is going through difficulties. The Arab Spring is dominating foreign policies from Washington to Moscow and from Beijing to Canberra. In other words, the globe has a lot on its plate.
For months, no one has paid much attention to Iran’s continued refusal to dismantle its nuclear programme. There are notreal talks taking place and none planned in the near-future.
But the recent vote in UNESCO, granting Palestine full membership, may have been a defining moment for the Israeli Government. It was unable to stop that vote; it could not even dissuade an ally like France from voting Yes. In such circumstances, Israel is feeling the breeze of opposition and even isolation.
Perhaps this would change if there was a legitimate threat of a conflict between Israel and Iran, with an Israeli official saying Jerusalem will act unilaterally if no one steps in to help. Maybe, just maybe, others would see the prospect of a Persian Gulf in flames as a problem larger than the financial crisis and the Arab Spring combined and so would step up pressure on Iran?
Maybe Israel is planning an attack on Iran. Maybe Bibi is really telling the Cabinet to step up or shut up. But that’s a remote possibility. If the Israeli Cabinet was on the verge an attack, I don’t think it would be previewed to reporters from Ha’aretz.
The Israeli newspaper offers an in-depth examination of the issue.