The sage Israeli commentator and activist Uri Avnery recently published an excellent analysis of the Israel/Iran situation on The Planetary Movement (1). Mr. Avnery presented the full list of strategic reasons why it is highly unlikely that Netanyahu will launch such an attack. It would result in: the immediate closing of the Strait of Hormuz, thus cutting off the flow of about 40% of the world's oil; an immediate all-out Iranian missile assault on the Israeli cities, with some missiles getting through and wreaking much destruction no matter how good the Israel/US "missile shield" is; unknown to most US citizens (including an unknown number of their political leaders, especially on the Right anyway), Iran is very large country, "larger than Germany, France, Spain and Italy combined," Mr. Avnery tells us, thus making it tough to bomb "everything;" it would be a long war, something on the scale of the Vietnam War. Further, very importantly (and the Israelis know this), given the very powerful Israeli nuclear force, Avnery tells us, what difference would it really make in world politics if Iran does get The Bomb (think India/Pakistan).
This is an excellent list, known to many of the Israeli and US political and military staffs and leaders who are dealing with the situation. Further, one could add to it the cost of the inevitable massive civilian casualties, both to the people of Iran, of course, but also to the people of Israel, plus the further lowering of the latter's already dismal reputation around the world and the inevitable further rise in international anti-Semitism. Of course, none of the elements of the list appears to be either known or understood by the Israeli Far FAR Right/AIPAC/GOP true political trumpeters of war in both the US and Israel, who really mean what they say, like for example in the U.S., Sens. Santorum and McCain: "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran."
However, there are political reasons that indicate that Netanyahu has no intention of attacking Iran. I think that for him they are the more important considerations for not doing so. First, domestically, a recent poll showed that 60% of Israelis disapprove of any pre-emptive strike on Iran. He could lose his present control of the Israeli government very easily. Second, although he might not give a hoot about what would happen to oil prices from the closure of the Strait of Hormuz, he does know what would happen to Israel as the result of a counter-attack from Iran using their conventional missile weapons, which would very likely have very similar political consequences. Third, he also knows, counter to the Israeli published bravado on this one, that any attack in an attempt to destroy Iran's "nuclear weapons" facilities (whether or not they actually exist), given the size of the country and the depth of the burial of Iran's nuclear facilities, whether for peaceful or military purposes, would be technically very difficult to carry out, with no guarantee of success. That could also lead to a political catastrophe for him. Finally, of course, there surely would be no "knock-out" of an Iranian nuclear weapons program if, as many intelligence analysts sources, including US ones, state, there is none (2).
Given these domestic political considerations, as well as the strategic ones about which the current right-wing Israeli government might or might not care, why is the Netanyahu government doing what it is doing in re Iran? Well, by a process of elimination it would appear that Netanyahu's primary goal in trumpeting the "Iran/bomb-let's-bomb" option is political alright, but political in the US, not in Israel. Indeed it appears that what Netanyahu is really doing is using the "Iran-nukes-let's-bomb" issue to try to secure a GOP victory in the US in November. Thus the constant painting of Obama as a wimp and blaggard (a scoundrel; an unprincipled, contemptible person; an untrustworthy person) on the matter, despite the fact that Obama's position in reality varies little from the published Israeli one: "we [the U.S.] will not let Iran get the bomb" (whether they want it or not). Certainly, the AIPAC/GOP axis, fronting for Netanyahu, treats Obama that way.
And why would Netanyahu want to do that, other than (apparently) really not liking Obama personally? Because his goals of aggression have nothing to do with Iran. Rather, they have everything to do with the Palestinians and the Occupied Territories, known to the Israeli Right, their US far right-wing/Orthodox settler base in them, and their US Right-wing Christian supporters as the (fictitious) "Greater Israel." They all make policy based on a piece of Biblical text, whose human writers did, several millennia ago, describe "The Land of Israel." What Netanyahu and his even-further-to-the-right allies really want to do is annex the West Bank and drive out the Palestinians. And then at least some of them have said that they would like to ethnically cleanse Israel of its Arab citizens.
If Obama wins re-election, it is highly unlikely that any of this would be possible. Further, in an Obama second term, in one way or another Netanyahu could well be forced into real negotiations with the Palestinians. This is something he absolutely does not want to do (3). And so, the solution? Get a Republican government elected. How to help do this, in addition to having the Israeli Right's extremely wealthy US backers pour money into the GOP coffers? By feeding strongly into the standard GOP myth that Obama (?Muslim, ?Kenyan, definitely "black" [even though he is half white]) is "weak." Under a GOP/US government, Iran would still not be bombed, for the strategic reason presented above. But Israel would certainly not have to negotiate with the Palestinians, and might very well be allowed to proceed with its own "resolution" of the "Palestinian problem," which many Israeli government officials have openly advocated (4). This appears to be the only logical explanation for Netanyahu's current behavior, vis---vis the "Iran-bomb" question.
1. click here
3. Jonas, S., "Why the
Current Israeli Government Will Not Negotiate,"
4. Danny Danon (a deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset), "Making the Land of Israel Whole, The New York Times, May 18, 2011.