Most people outside of Israel don't seem to realize this, but there's a full-on crisis over there about plans -- or non-plans -- to bomb Iran's nuclear program. I'll round-up more of this news as it comes over the transom, but this struck me as particularly interesting: Polls by Haaretz show that the Israeli public is split on the matter. On the issue of the attack itself, the results are split with 41% of Israelis (both Arabs and Jews) in favor of a strike, 39% against it, 20% undecided. Most definitively, 80% of Israelis believe that a strike on Iran will draw Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon into a war with Israel, with 59% responding that scenario playing out would be highly likely, the other 21% responding that it would be only fairly likely.
However, to Prime Minister Netanyahu, this last scenario is much less interesting. In his view, the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran would inevitably draw Israel into conflict with Hamas and Hezbollah because both groups would be able to operate more freely against Israel with a nuclear Iran behind them. From my cover story in the Atlantic last September:
The challenges posed by a nuclear Iran are more subtle than a direct attack, Netanyahu told me. "Several bad results would emanate from this single development. First, Iran's militant proxies would be able to fire rockets and engage in other terror activities while enjoying a nuclear umbrella. This raises the stakes of any confrontation that they'd force on Israel. Instead of being a local event, however painful, it becomes a global one. Second, this development would embolden Islamic militants far and wide, on many continents, who would believe that this is a providential sign, that this fanaticism is on the ultimate road to triumph.
Meanwhile, the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet is reporting that Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi is, unsurprisingly, saying bring it on. (It is possible to imagine Iran benefiting from such an attack -- for one thing, an attack could legitimize the very program Israel is hoping to wipe out.) Jackson Diehl at The Post is less convinced about the prospects of an attack:
The new burst of speculation, like those before it, does serve a couple of purposes for Israel, however. It refocuses attention on the Iranian threat, and takes it away from the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations; it raises the pressure on the United States and its allies to increase sanctions and other nonmilitary pressure on Tehran.
All the smoke also helps to obscure Israel's real intentions. After so many cries of "Wolf!," it seems fairly probable that when Israel really does prepare to attack, no one will believe the press leaks. That includes now.
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