Israel Will Not Attack Iran. Period.
By Uri Avnery
Everybody knows the scene from school: a small boy
quarrels with a bigger boy. 'Hold me back!' he shouts
to his comrades, 'Before I break his bones!'
Our government seems to be behaving in this way. Every
day, via all channels, it shouts that it is going, any
minute now, to break the bones of Iran.
Iran is about to produce a nuclear bomb. We cannot
allow this. So we shall bomb them to smithereens.
Binyamin Netanyahu says so in every one of his
countless speeches, including his opening speech at the
winter session of the Knesset. Ditto Ehud Barak. Every
self-respecting commentator (has anyone ever seen a
non-self-respecting one?) writes about it. The media
amplify the sound and the fury.
“Haaretz” splashed its front page with pictures of the
seven most important ministers (the “security septet”)
showing three in favor of the attack, four against.
A German proverb says: “Revolutions that are announced
in advance do not take place.” Same goes for wars.
Nuclear affairs are subject to very strict military
censorship. Very very strict indeed.
Yet the censor seems to be smiling benignly. Let the
boys, including the Prime Minister and the Minister of
Defense (the censor's ultimate boss) play their games.
The respected former long-serving chief of the Mossad,
Meir Dagan, has publicly warned against the attack,
describing it as “the most stupid idea” he has ever
heard”. He explained that he considers it his duty to
warn against it, in view of the plans of Netanyahu and
On Wednesday, there was a veritable deluge of leaks.
Israel tested a missile that can deliver a nuclear bomb
more than 5000 km away, beyond you-know-where. And our
Air Force has just completed exercises in Sardinia, at
a distance larger than you-know-where. And on Thursday,
the Home Front Command held training exercises all over
Greater Tel Aviv, with sirens screaming away.
All this seems to indicate that the whole hullabaloo is
a ploy. Perhaps to frighten and deter the Iranians.
Perhaps to push the Americans into more extreme
actions. Perhaps coordinated with the Americans in
advance. (British sources, too, leaked that the Royal
Navy is training to support an American attack on
It is an old Israeli tactic to act as if we are going
crazy (“The boss has gone mad” is a routine cry in our
markets, to suggest that the fruit vendor is selling at
a loss.) We shall not listen to the US any more. We
shall just bomb and bomb and bomb.
Well, let’s be serious for a moment.
Israel will not attack Iran. Period.
Some may think that I am going out on a limb. Shouldn’t
I add at least “probably” or “almost certainly”?
No, I won’t. I shall repeat categorically: Israel Will
NOT Attack Iran.
Since the 1956 Suez adventure, when President Dwight D.
Eisenhower delivered an ultimatum that stopped the
action, Israel has never undertaken any significant
military operation without obtaining American consent
The US is Israel’s only dependable supporter in the
world (besides, perhaps, Fiji, Micronesia, the Marshall
Islands, and Palau.) To destroy this relationship means
cutting our lifeline. To do that, you have to be more
than just a little crazy. You have to be raving mad.
Furthermore, Israel cannot fight a war without
unlimited American support, because our planes and our
bombs come from the US. During a war, we need supplies,
spare parts, many sorts of equipment. During the Yom
Kippur war, Henry Kissinger had an “air train”
supplying us around the clock. And that war would
probably look like a picnic compared to a war with
Let’s look at the map. That, by the way, is always
recommended before starting any war.
The first feature that strikes the eye is the narrow
Strait of Hormuz, through which every third barrel of
the worlds seaborne oil supplies flow. Almost the
entire output of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Iraq
and Iran has to run the gauntlet through this narrow
“Narrow” is an understatement. The entire width of this
waterway is some 35 km (or 20 miles). That’s about the
distance from Gaza to Beer Sheva, which was crossed
last week by the primitive rockets of the Islamic
When the first Israeli plane enters Iranian airspace,
the strait will be closed. The Iranian navy has plenty
of missile boats, but they will not be needed.
Land-based missiles are enough.
The world is already teetering on the verge of an
abyss. Little Greece is threatening to fall and take
major chunks of the world economy with her. The
elimination of almost a fifth of the industrial
nations’ supply of oil would lead to a catastrophe hard
even to imagine.
To open the strait by force would require a major
military operation (including “putting boots on the
ground”) that would overshadow all the US misadventures
in Iraq and Afghanistan. Can the US afford that? Can
NATO? Israel itself is not in the same league.
But Israel would be very much involved in the action,
if only on the receiving end.
In a rare show of unity, all of Israel’s service
chiefs, including the heads of the Mossad and Shin Bet,
are publicly opposing the whole idea. We can only guess
I don’t know whether the operation is possible at all.
Iran is a very large country, about the size of Alaska,
the nuclear installations are widely dispersed and
largely underground. Even with the special deep
penetration bombs provided by the US, the operation may
stall the Iranian efforts – such as they are - only for
a few months. The price may be too high for such meager
Moreover, it is quite certain that with the beginning
of a war, missiles will rain down on Israel – not only
from Iran, but also from Hizbollah, and perhaps also
from Hamas. We have no adequate defense for our towns.
The amount of death and destruction would be
Suddenly, the media are full of stories about our three
submarines, soon to grow to five, or even six, if the
Germans are understanding and generous. It is openly
said that these give us the capabilities of a nuclear
“second strike”, if Iran uses its (still non-existent)
nuclear warheads against us. But the Iranians may also
use chemical and other weapons of mass destruction.
Then there is the political price. There are a lot of
tensions in the Islamic world. Iran is far from popular
in many parts of it. But an Israeli assault on a major
Muslim country would instantly unite Sunnis and
Shiites, from Egypt and Turkey to Pakistan and beyond.
Israel could become a villa in a burning jungle.
But the talk about the war serves many purposes,
including domestic, political ones.
Last Saturday, the social protest movement sprang to
life again. After a pause of two months, a mass of
people assembled in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square. This was
quite remarkable, because on that very day rockets were
falling on the towns near the Gaza Strip. Until now, in
such a situation demonstrations have always been
canceled. Security problems trump everything else. Not
Also, many people believed that the euphoria of the
Gilad Shalit festival had wiped the protest from the
public mind. It didn’t.
By the way, something remarkable has happened: the
media, after siding with the protest movement for
months, have had a change of heart. Suddenly all of
them, including Haaretz, are sticking knives in its
back. As if by order, all newspapers wrote the next day
that “more than 20,000” took part. Well I was there,
and I do have some idea of these things. There were at
least 100,000 people there, most of them young. I could
The protest has not spent itself, as the media assert.
Far from it. But what better means for taking people’s
minds off social justice than talk of the “existential
Moreover, the reforms demanded by the protesters would
need money. In view of the worldwide financial crisis,
the government strenuously objects to increasing the
state budget, for fear of damaging our credit rating.
So where could the money come from? There are only
three plausible sources: the settlements (who would
dare?), the Orthodox (ditto!) and the huge military
But on the eve of the most crucial war in our history,
who would touch the armed forces? We need every shekel
to buy more planes, more bombs, more submarines.
Schools and hospitals must, alas, wait.
So God bless Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Where would we be
- Uri Avnery is an Israeli peace activist and a former
Knesset member. He is the founder of Gush Shalom. He
contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.
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