7 Reasons Why Israel Should Not Attack Iran's Nuclear Facilities

Israeli officials may see a "zero hour" for attacking Iranian nuclear facilities, but it could backfire.

israel attacks post aug12.jpg
Israeli Air Force jets fly in a military exercise. (Reuters)

On his Twitter feed, Oren Kessler reports that news analysts on Israel's Channel 2 are in agreement that an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities seems to be imminent. Ari Shavit, of Haaretz, is reporting that an unnamed senior Israeli security official he interviewed who is identified in a headline as "the decision-maker" (If you guess Ehud Barak, the defense minister, you would not be wrong) is arguing that the zero-hour is approaching for an Israeli decision:

"If Israel forgoes the chance to act and it becomes clear that it no longer has the power to act, the likelihood of an American action will decrease. So we cannot wait a year to find out who was right: the one who said that the likelihood of an American action is high or the one who said the likelihood of an American action is low."

Aluf Benn, the editor of Haaretz, writes that the world seems to have accepted the idea that Israel will soon strike Iran: "All the signs show that the 'international community,' meaning the western powers and the U.S. in the lead, seem to have reconciled themselves with Israel's talk of a military strike - and now they are pushing Netanyahu to stand by his rhetoric and send his bombers to their targets in Iran. In general terms, the market has already accounted for the Israeli strike in its assessment of the risk of the undertaking, and it is now waiting for the expectation to be realized." And then, of course, there is Efraim Halevy, the former head of the Mossad, who warned earlier this month that Iran should fear an Israeli strike over the next twelve weeks.

I'm not going to guess whether Israel will strike Iran tomorrow, next month, next year, or never. I believe it is highly plausible that Netanyahu and Barak will do so at some point over the next twelve months, if current trends remain the same. (The Atlantic Iran War Dial, which is set by a panel of 22 experts, currently puts the chance of an Israeli or American strike over the next 12 months at 38 percent.)  Obviously, the Obama Administration believes that Netanyahu and Barak are itching to give the strike order soon. Otherwise, why would it have sent half the senior national security team to Israel over the past several weeks?

Though I have no idea what's going to happen in the coming weeks, this seems like an opportune moment to once again list the many reasons why an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities is a bad idea. Believe me, I take seriously the arguments made by Netanyahu and Barak in favor of action against Iran (read the Shavit piece, linked above, for a very good summary of all the reasons why a nuclear Iran would be a catastrophe for Israel, and pretty damn bad for the Arabs and the West as well), but the negatives still outweigh the positives in my mind: Here are some potential consequences of an Israeli strike:
 
1) Innocent people will die. It is quite possible that even a limited Israeli strike could kill innocent Iranians, and it is an almost-sure thing that Iranian retaliation will kill innocent Israels.

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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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