Written by Aaron Goldstein
June 27, 2008
by Aaron Goldstein
Earlier this month, the Israeli Air Force conducted a training exercise off the Mediterranean Sea which many believe is a strong indication that Israel will launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear program.
Many believe the loss of a valuable friend in George W. Bush and the prospect of dealing with Barack Obama, someone committed to talking directly with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while leaning harder on Israel, might provide an impetus for Israel to strike Iran in the coming months. Of course, this assumes that Obama’s victory is a fait d’accompli. The American electorate might see it a little differently in November.
While I believe that Israel’s military could carry out such a task if needed I do not believe the political will in Israel presently exists for such an event to occur.
Simply put Israel will not attack Iran’s nuclear facilities so long as Ehud Olmert is Prime Minister.
I believe this to be true for three reasons.
First, let us consider Olmert’s lackluster performance during the Israel-Lebanon War with Hezbollah in the summer of 2006. The Winograd Commission which investigated Olmert’s actions during the conflict stated that he had “failed” in his duty as Prime Minister although it stopped short of calling for his resignation. While immensely unpopular with the Israeli electorate, Olmert remains in office. Since Olmert has not been held to account for his actions (or lack thereof) there is no reason to believe he has learned the error of his ways.
Second, Olmert has been wholly unprepared to launch a full scale invasion into Gaza despite the persistent launching of rockets into Israel by Islamic Jihad under the watchful eye of Hamas, ceasefire or no ceasefire. Olmert has preferred to let Egypt reason with Hamas. If Olmert is unprepared to fight terrorists across the street, he certainly won’t be prepared to fight terrorists across the Mediterranean.
Olmert simply lacks the military background of his predecessors. In most democratic countries it is not necessary for the head of government to have a military background. But Israel is not most democratic countries and given the threats Israel continues to face it requires a Prime Minister that has experience in military combat and has been in a position of military leadership such as Ehud Barak or Benjamin Netanyahu. Despite their ideological differences, I cannot imagine either Barak or Netanyahu undergoing the kind of difficulty and indecision that Olmert experienced during the Israel-Lebanon War.
Third, even if Olmert was prepared to exert political will an attack against Iranian nuclear facilities might not be feasible. While some observers point to the Israeli bombing of a Syrian nuclear reactor last September as well as the 1981 bombing of the Osarik nuclear facility in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq it must be remembered that these facilities existed above ground. The Iranian regime learned from Osarik and has built its nuclear infrastructure below ground. Of course, if anyone could find a way to disable an underground nuclear facility it would be Israel.
However, it also must be remembered that while the Israeli mission against the Syrian facility took place in September 2007 it was only made public in April 2008 by the White House after members of the House Intelligence Committee had been officially briefed. Olmert has never discussed the mission in public. Israel could not launch such a mission against Iran in such a clandestine and discreet fashion given the rhetoric of the Iranian regime.
Of course, should Olmert resign or lose a snap election then all bets are off. By then Israel might be left with no other choice.
The Iranian regime has not shown itself to be amenable to reason, negotiation or compromise. So long as the mullahs and Ahmadinejad engage in the rhetoric of telling the world the Holocaust was a myth, that Israel should be wiped off the map, that Israel is a stinking corpse and that there should be a world without Israel while simultaneously developing a nuclear weapon, Israel cannot rule out military action against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
But if Israel is to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, it must do so in a way that makes the mullahs and Ahmadinejad halt their nuclear ambitions altogether. Once Israel goes in there’s no turning back. No room for half measures.
There might come a time when an Israeli Prime Minister will have to make such a decision. However, that Prime Minister won’t be Ehud Olmert.
Aaron Goldstein writes about the things that pique his insatiable curiosity. In addition to politics, he is an aficionado of baseball, poetry, music and ketchup flavored potato chips. Aaron satiates his various appetites in Boston.