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"Hold Me Back!"

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Since the Iranians, too, realize that Israel could not attack without American consent, they would react accordingly.

As I have written here before, a cursory glance at the map suffices to indicate what would be the immediate reaction. The narrow Hormuz Strait at the entrance of the Persian (or Arabian) Gulf, through which a huge part of the world's oil flows, would be sealed at once. The results would shake the international economy, from the US and Europe to China and Japan. Prices would soar to the skies. The countries that had just begun to recover from the world economic crisis would sink to the depths of misery and unemployment, riots and bankruptcies.

The Strait could be opened only by a military operation on the ground. The US simply has no troops to spare for this even if the American public were ready for another war, one much more difficult than even those of Iraq and Afghanistan. It is even doubtful whether the US could help Israel to defend itself against the inevitable counter-stroke by Iranian missiles.

The Israeli attack on a central Islamic country would unite the entire Islamic world, including the entire Arab world. The US, which has spent the last few years laboring mightily to form a coalition of "moderate" Arab states (meaning: countries governed by dictators kept by the US) against the "radical" states. This pack would immediately become unstuck. No Arab leader would be able to stand aside while the masses of his people were gathering in tumultuous demonstrations in the squares.

All this is clear to any knowledgeable person, and even more so to the American military and civilian leaders. Secretaries, generals and admirals have been sent to Israel to make this clear to our leaders in a language that even kindergarten kids can understand: No! Lo! La! Nyet!

IF SO, why has the military option not been removed from the table?

Because the US and Israel like it lying there.

The US likes to pose as if it can hardly hold back the ferocious Israeli Rottweiler on its leash. This puts pressure on the other powers to agree to the imposition of sanctions on Iran. If you don't agree, the murderous dog could leap out of control. Think about the consequences!

What sanctions? For some time now, this terrifying word "sanctions" has been bedeviling everybody on the international stage. They are going to be imposed "within weeks". But when one inquires what it is all about, one realizes that there is a lot of smoke and very little fire. Some commanders of the Revolutionary Guards may be hurt, some marginal damage inflicted on the Iranian economy. The "paralyzing sanctions" have disappeared, because there was no chance that Russia and China would agree. Both do very good business with Iran.

Also, there is very little chance that these sanctions would stop the production of the bomb, or even slow it down. From the point of view of the Ayatollahs, this effort is the prime imperative of national defense only a country with nuclear arms is immune from American attack. Faced with the repeated threats by American spokesmen to overthrow their regime, no Iranian government could act differently. The more so since during the last century, the Americans and the British have repeatedly done exactly that. Iranian denials are perfunctory. According to all reports, even the most extreme Iranian opponents of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad support the acquisition of the bomb and would rally behind him if attacked.

In this respect, the Israeli leadership is right: nothing will stop Iran's endeavor to obtain a nuclear bomb except the massive employment of military power. The "sanctions" are childish games. The American administration is talking about them in glowing terms in order to cover up the fact that even mighty America is unable to stop the Iranian bomb.

WHEN NETANYAHU & Co. criticize the inability of the American leaders to act against Iran, they answer in the same coin: you, too, are not serious.

And indeed, how serious are our leaders about this? They have convinced the Israeli public that it is a matter of life and death. Iran is led by a madman, a new Hitler, a sick anti-Semite, an obsessive Holocaust-denier. If he got his hands on a nuclear bomb, he would not hesitate for a moment to drop it on Tel Aviv and Dimona. With this sword hanging over our heads, this is no time for trivial matters, such as the Palestinian problem and the occupation. Everyone who raises the Palestinian question in a meeting with our leaders is immediately interrupted: Forget this nonsense, let's talk about the Iranian bomb!!

But Obama and his people turn the argument around: if this is an existential danger, they say, please draw the conclusions. If this matter endangers the very existence of Israel, sacrifice the West Bank settlements on this altar. Accept the Arab League peace offer, make peace with the Palestinians as quickly as possible. That will ease our situation in Iraq and Afghanistan and free our forces. Also, Iran would have no more pretext for war with Israel. The masses of the Arab world would not support it anymore.

And the conclusion: If a new Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem is more important to you than the Iranian bomb, the matter is clearly not really so critical for you. And that, with all due modesty, is my opinion, too.

THE DAY before yesterday a correspondent of Israel's popular Channel 2 called me and asked, in a shocked voice: "Is it true that you have given an interview to the Iranian news agency?

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Uri Avnery is a longtime Israeli peace activist. Since 1948 has advocated the setting up of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In 1974, Uri Avnery was the first Israeli to establish contact with PLO leadership. In 1982 he was the first Israeli ever to meet Yassir Arafat, after crossing the lines in besieged Beirut. He served three terms in the (more...)
 

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