On a daily basis, the American news media report that Israel may be planning an imminent attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, in an attempt to destroy or at least slow down Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. Iran continues to deny that it has any plans to build nuclear bombs, and asserts that its nuclear research program is for peaceful purposes only.
In a series of recent high-level meetings between U.S. and Israeli government officials, the U.S. has attempted to persuade Israel not to attack, but to give strict economic sanctions against Iran time to have an effect.
Since 1999, I have visited Israel 7 times, and have gotten to know a number of Israelis. I feel that I am fairly familiar with the Israeli mindset and with how many Israelis view the world.
Baruch Korren, 73, the father of an Israeli friend, lives outside of Tiberius, an ancient city on the Sea of Galilee. Baruch is a retired Israeli Air Force defense commander, and was actively involved in the 1967 and 1973 Israeli wars with its Arab neighbors.
In a recent telephone conversation, I asked Baruch if he thinks Israel should attack Iranian nuclear facilities. His immediate answer was “no”, at least not alone. Speaking in Hebrew and translated by his son, Baruch said, “It’s not right for Israel to go into this alone, without the backing of superpowers. Iran is a huge power, with weapons, and we will get tangled and will not be able to resolve this affair completely. Not Israel alone, because we don’t have a joint border [with Iran]. You need to fly over hostile territories. It’s not simple.”
What, then, does Baruch think Israel should do? “Go together with the Americans…we will convince the world [that] the danger is not just for us. It is for all the adjacent Arab countries, like Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, all of the Oil Emirates, the United States, including Europe, where they can close the straits where the oil goes through. We need to go together. If there is a strike together, then I am for it.”
I asked Baruch about the recent American attempts to dissuade Israel from attacking Iran, and all of the posturing going on between Israel and Iran. “I think that it’s all a political game. Israel is barking that it will attack…but it’s to create pressure on the Persians. They [the Iranians] are making preparations, and it’s very costly, and they feel under pressure…but I think that in the end the Persians will bend.”
Baruch admits that he and most Israelis are very concerned about Iran’s nuclear program, although, in a November, 2011, poll conducted by Ha’aretz, Israelis were evenly divided over whether their country should carry out a military strike. 41% supported attacking Iranian nuclear facilities, 39% were opposed to an attack, 20% were undecided.
But, since November, attitudes have changed, according to Israeli journalist Larry Derfner. Writing for Salon (2/16/12) ‘Israel Prepares For War With Iran,’ Derfner states that there is now a “an aura of inevitability around an imminent Israeli strike…Israel’s whole body politic – politicians, media, influential public figures and public at large – is now leaning into a war with Iran.” Derfner laments that there are almost no voices for peace. “The paucity of dissent is remarkable, not to say depressing, in a country that prides itself on being a ‘vibrant democracy.’”
I hope Baruch is correct, and that the bellicose chest-thumping by the Israelis is just “a political game.” Because, once an Israeli/Iranian war begins, the Middle East becomes radically destabilized, with profound and unpredictable consequences.