Israel returns to “Hold me.” Is the exercise that was (partially) successful in 2011 supposed to be successful in 2021 as well? We will know this later. The chances are not great. Today’s Iran is not the Iran of a decade ago. It is much closer to the nucleus. It is on the verge of defining itself as a threshold state. America is not the same America either, and the challenge is much more difficult: the Iranians have long since entered what Ehud Barak called the “space of immunity.” They dispersed the nuclear project and deepened it to the belly of the earth. They do not have a nuclear reactor. It’s not “Zebang and we’re done” like in Osirak or Deir a-Zor.
The purpose of the offensive launched yesterday by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Defense Minister Bnei Gantz, in his much more restrained way, is to convince the powers in general and the United States in particular that we are serious. Where there were moments when the Americans were convinced that the lunatics might attack Iran.
The Israeli concern is from two options. The first is called “shuffling”. Negotiations will resume, but will not move forward. The Iranians will drag their feet. The superpowers will be dragged after them. Production of a missile capable of taking it to the target under the right conditions).
The second option is some sort of interim arrangement. The evil of all worlds. The agreement will not be re-signed, but US sanctions will be lifted in exchange for the “enrichment freeze” of the Iranians. This option is also not popular in Jerusalem. This was the reason why yesterday she took our leaders out of their offices and sent out from their throats the brushstrokes they made, hoping they would get to Washington as soon as possible.
Paradoxically, the chances of the Bennett-Lapid government attacking Iran are greater than the chances of the Netanyahu-Barak government launching such an attack. This is wisdom in retrospect, but it is based on data: Barak never intended to attack. He made a round of Netanyahu, he played a role, he braked at once and made a U-turn just before She’an time. Without lightning, when all the heads of the security forces oppose, Netanyahu did not have enough determination to perform.
Who was both there and here is Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman. When asked in those years what was going on with the Iranian issue, he would answer with a dismissal motion and snort contemptuously. “A waste of time,” Lieberman used to say, “in life we will not attack, Barak can but does not want to, Bibi wants but cannot because he does not have the courage, so we grind water.”
Bennett winks at another material. for better and for worse. He is able to make such a decision in the moment of truth (we are far from that moment, yet). Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, if he is convinced that “the sword is on his neck” (as Meir Dagan defined at the time), is also capable of making such a decision. They have enough hands in the cabinet to defeat Ministers Nitzan Horowitz and Merav Michaeli (assuming they oppose). If Gantz is convinced that there is no choice, the block of Bennett, Lapid, Gantz and Lieberman will be able to gain a majority. The Iranian nuclear program, which is growing uranium and centrifuges before our eyes, is not a story of right or left. Is an existential story.
But yesterday’s true story is not the Iranian nuclear issue. The real story is the Iranian activity around us. When he was a young cabinet minister, Bennett toyed with this idea, and even tried to sell it to colleagues at the decision-making level. He did not understand why the Iranians sit complacent in Tehran while we quarrel non-stop with their envoys along our borders.
When something explodes here with us, Bennett said in closed conversations, why does not something explode there in Tehran, with them? Benjamin Netanyahu called the Iranian strategy “the cat game.” Iran is a cat that sends long arms to hurt us. We try to block or injure the arms. It’s time, said Bennett, who was hit in the cat’s head. That is, at the head of the serpent.
Yesterday he said it all out loud, in his speech at Reichman University. He revealed something else: Iran is not as strong as it claims to be. On the conventional level this is a country with a rusty army, an outdated and almost grounded air force and increased sensitivity to human life. “Iran is corrosion,” Bennett said and was largely right.
Iranian military exercise. Photo: Reuters
His first decisions in office were about empowerment. The IDF is now investing billions in stockpiling, missiles, rockets, filling emergency depots, developing new capabilities. For Bennett, Israel should hit Iran directly whenever one of Iran’s envoys hits, or tries to hit. At first he just thought so. Tried to persuade and mobilize support.
Yesterday he stated it for the first time out loud. In recent months, according to foreign publications, Israel’s activity against Iranian targets in Syria has increased. If Bennett’s ‘direct harm’ policy is also translated into action, it could lead us to a new and dangerous era: an indirect war between Israel and Iran will become overt. Tehran will become a target. On the face of it there is no reason why this should not happen. If Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are targets, it’s time for the Iranians to shoot as well.
Do the decision-makers in Jerusalem have enough courage? Isn’t this a dangerous, let alone crazy, gamble? Questions for which there is no clear answer. What there is is new thinking, out of all the boxes we have known so far. interesting.