Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly to launch a new, last-ditch effort in the next few days to persuade the United States to credibly revive the military option against Iran.
If this proves unsuccessful, Channel 2 reported, Netanyahu will have to decide whether to launch an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities by this winter at latest, because after that, the report indicated, the assessment is that Israel’s window for military intervention will close.
Israel desperately wants to see the Obama Administration harden its position on Iran immediately — to convey to Iran that if it does not halt its nuclear program, its regime will not survive. Instead, however, Jerusalem sees what it considers an overly tolerant and patient attitude by Washington DC to Tehran, the Channel 2 report said.
Next week, the P5+1 powers — the five UN Security Council members, plus Germany — are set to meet to coordinate positions ahead of possible talks with incoming Iranian President Hasan Rouhani’s leadership. The fear in Jerusalem, the TV report said, is that Iran will prove capable of buying more time in such talks, while its centrifuges spin, its other nuclear facilities move forward, and it becomes too late for effective military intervention.
Netanyahu is about to begin a new effort at “public diplomacy,” aimed at securing “increased pressure on Iran,” led by the US, notably including the revival of “a real military threat” if the Iranians don’t halt their nuclear drive, the TV report said.
If the prime minister’s effort fails, “Netanyahu will have to make a decision in the next few months” over “whether to attack Iran by the winter.” The report stressed considerable support for a resort to military force within the cabinet, and concluded: “This could happen.”
Some scenarios relating to a possible Israeli attack, the report said, include a possible response led by Hezbollah, firing missiles into Israel, which would require the use of Israeli ground forces in Lebanon, possibly “including the invasion of Lebanon by the IDF.” Other, milder assessments suggest an Israeli strike and Iranian response might not lead to regional war, the report said.
The TV report noted that the departing Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren, in an interview Thursday with Haaretz, compared Netanyahu to prime minister Levi Eshkol, who preempted a concerted Arab attack on Israel by launching the 1967 war, and said the invoking of Eshkol was not coincidental.
On Iran today, said Oren, the question Netanyahu faces “is similar to the question that faced [first prime minister David] Ben-Gurion in May 1948 and the question that Levi Eshkol faced in May 1967… As prime minister of a sovereign state, Netanyahu has the responsibility to defend the country. When the country is a Jewish state with a painful and tragic history – the responsibility is even greater and heavier… Defending Israel is not an option – it’s a duty.”
Was Netanyahu emotionally capable of going to war? “I think so,” said Oren. “He doesn’t sleep at night. He bears a tremendous responsibility on his shoulders. And he has restraint; he isn’t dragged into unnecessary wars. But this restraint is actually a sign of strength – as it was with Eshkol.”