Israel's 'War Bluff'

Marc Lynch, in The Atlantic's debate series on my Iran-Israel article, makes an interesting point about what he terms the "oddest aspect of Israeli strategy over the last year and a half:

The "war bluff" argument -- that we will be most effective at diplomacy if we can credibly threaten force, with Israel playing the "bad cop" to force Iran to deal with the American "good cop" -- only works if there is adequate trust between the U.S. and Israel. This is why the Obama administration has taken to consulting so regularly and at such high levels with Israel, in order to ensure that communication is clear and consistent. Goldberg's suggestion that Israeli officials would nevertheless be prepared to spring such a surprise undermines that trust. This, ironically, makes it far more difficult for the Americans to design and implement the sort of effective coercive diplomacy required. Even more to the point, the Netanyahu government and its allies have done almost everything possible to undermine this administration's trust. The excruciating battle over an Israeli settlement freeze was telling: if Netanyahu truly took the Iranian threat as seriously as Goldberg claims, as an existential challenge to Israel's survival, then why destroy his relationship with the U.S. at such a pivotal moment?

I tend to think that the Iran question has brought to the fore an unprecedented problem for Israel: the collision of two core defense doctrines. The first one: Never allow a regional adversary to gain possession of a nuclear weapon. The second: Never risk rupturing Israel's relationship with an American president. The only reason Israel would risk rupturing relations with America is if it feels it would have no future in an Iran-dominated Middle East.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.


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