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A matter of life and death: Israel vs. Iran

By Missing Peace
Netanyahu at the UN: Iran preparing another Holocaust

Jerusalem, December 2  2011

The Iranian attack on  the British embassy in Teheran raised Israeli expectations about the chance that the EU finally would act in a decisive way against Iran. But the new round of sanctions are a far cry from the though measures Jerusalem would like to see.

Former Israeli ambassador to France Daniel Shek, said in a TV interview on Israeli Channel 10 that ‘the new EU sanctions don’t hurt Europe and thus won’t hurt Iran either’.

Other Israeli commentators wondered what it would take for Europe to act against Iran. This happened after it became clear that the attack on the British embassy would not lead to really crippling  EU sanctions.

The new round of sanctions not only led to criticism in Israel but in the US as well. The Washington Post for example, called the sanctions “half measures”.

The outcome of the meeting of the EU foreign ministers last week, was further evidence of the wide gap in the perceptions about the Iranian threat between Israel and Europe.

For the EU Iran seems to be a sideshow and a rather abstract and distant threat. For Israel however, it is no less than a matter of life and death.

This is clear from the amount of Iran-related articles that have been published in Israel recently, but also from the ongoing public debate about a military strike.

Mossad chiefs

Last Thursday former Mossad head Meir Dagan, once again, warned against an Israeli military attack on the Iranian nuclear program.

The same day Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak replied and said that ‘Israel has no intention, at the moment, to take action against Iran, but is far from paralyzed by fear’. He also said that ‘Israel must act calmly and quietlywe don’t need big wars’.

Earlier,  another ex-Mossad chief, Danny Yatom expressed diametrically opposed positions to those of Meir Dagan. He said: “As difficult a price it may be, and even those predicting apocalyptic results are correct- and I don’t think they are – this is still not as bad as the threat of an Iranian bomb”. He also said that the world has little time left to act on Iran.

Dagan said in the Uvda interview on Channel 2 that the Iranians probably interpreted the mixed messages as a sign that Israel will attack soon.

Watch the full interview (Hebrew) here:

Critical Hours

Ehud Barak, told CNN two weeks ago that there is probably only three quarters of a year left to stop the Iranian nuclear program.

He added that a nuclear Iran will have influence on the entire Middle East and that as a result countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt will also pursue nuclear weapons.

Earlier the Israeli minister of Strategic Affairs, Ya’alon, said that “those making decisions in Iran were still not convinced of the West’s determination to stop Iran’s nuclear program”.

He added that these were “critical hours” in determining where the world would go with its Iranian policy, and he claimed that ‘ it is forbidden for that non-conventional regime to obtain non-conventional weapons’.

During a conference at the Israeli Institute of National Security Studies (INSS), the director of the Israeli National Security Council, Ya’akov Amidror, strongly criticized the former heads of the Mossad (Meir Dagan), the Shin Beth (Yuval Diskin) and the IDF (Ashkenazi).

All three of them have been vocal in their opposition to an Israeli attack on Iran.

Amidror scolded them for their arrogance when they tried to “educate the current policymakers” in Israel. He also said that ‘they must be confused if they thought that they had a better understanding (of actions against Iran) than other people, whose ideas and ideologies differ from their own’.

Amidror’s words indicate that the current National Security Council has indeed other views regarding a military attack on Iran than Dagan, Diskin and Ashkenazi.

This would  also explain why the terms of all three of them were not extended.


Another indication Israel might ultimately go its own way regarding Iran, came from Prime Minister Netanyahu.

During a press conference with Romanian Prime Minister, Emil Boc, Netanyahu said that Israel recently has established unofficial ties with several Arab countries.

An Israeli government official later explained that these contacts  – most probably with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states – concern Iran. Many Arab countries feel threatened by Iran too.

The Saudi Arabian King Abdullah asked the US in 2008 to take military action against Iran when he told the American government to “chop off the head of the snake”.

On Sunday December 5th Netanyahu again hinted to an apparent upcoming fateful decision when he delivered a speech at the ceremony commemorating the 38th anniversary of David Ben Gurion’s death. He spoke about Ben Gurion’s decision to declare statehood despite international pressure not to do so, and then stated that he wanted to believe that “we always act with discretion,courage and determination to ensure our future and security”.


The Jerusalem Post recently published an analysis about the Iranian threat by Hirsch Goodman — the author of the book “The anatomy of Israel’s survival”–

In that analysis entitled “Clear and Present Danger“, Hirsch wrote the following:

Iran is Israel’s problem most of all. No other country is existentially threatened by Iran, in a position to suffer irreparable damage if attacked with nuclear weapons. Those imposing sanctions and locked in diplomacy to try to resolve the problem are involved in global power games, not a life-and-death situation.  He also wrote: “For Israel there is no margin of error “.

The article discussed almost every aspect of the Iranian threat in the present and the past.

The only topic that Goodman did not touch upon was the messianic Mahdi doctrine, which defines the ideology and the way of thinking of Iran’s supreme leaders.

In fact this doctrine, which was discussed at length in a Missing Peace analysis  last June, is the main source of the Iranian threat.

Hirschman concluded that Israel’s technological superiority is  key to its survival. He claims that this technology will be decisive on the way Israel will handle the so called military option.


Another warning about Israels position vis-a-vis Iran, was delivered in an op-ed by the former editor in chief of Ha’aretz David Landau in the Australian daily The Sydney Morning Herald.

Landau, who is a well known critic of Prime Minister Netanyahu, warned the world to take Netanyahu seriously when it comes to the Iranian threat. He also added that the majority of Israelis, from all walks of life, agree with their Prime Minister on Iran.

Landau wrote the following: “Many Israelis, by no means all groupies of Netanyahu, know exactly where he is coming from in this fraught and frightening saga. And they feel the same way he does. They still hope the world will act collectively to neutralize this threat, but if it doesn’t, they believe Israel must use its considerable military power.”

He also wrote about ‘a wider angst, never far beneath the surface, that keeps ordinary Israelis awake at night, as they churn over Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s chilling threats and the ominous International Atomic Energy Agency’s reports on Iran’s nuclear program’.

‘The Iranian president, spewing forth Holocaust denial while threatening another Holocaust, has pressed all the wrong buttons on Israel’s sensitive national psyche’, according to Landau.
Landau also claimed that Ehud Barak is still part of the Israeli Government only because of Israel’s plans vis-a-vis Iran.


Meanwhile Iranian threats against Israel and the West are only increasing.

The general of the Air Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards last week said that ‘from now on Iran will respond to threats with threats, instead of taking a defensive stand’. Thereafter he threatened Turkey with an attack on the NATO rocket shield (which is stationed in Turkey) if Iran will be attacked.

Earlier Khamenei’s military advisor warned Israel that Hamas and Hezbollah will destroy Israeli cities with their rockets. His statement was broadcasted live in the Israeli prime time news show Mabat (Channel 1).

As well as uttering threats, Iran has also been very busy in the military field.

Recently the Iranian army announced that large scale exercises by the Iranian navy will be held in the Gulf of Oman. In addition the Iranian navy has received three new Ghadir submarines,  Iran furthermore announced that it has producedan Iranian version of the advanced Russian S-300 air defense system.

The Basij attack on the British embassy was other proof that the Iranian regime will not back off because of this new round of sanctions or other measures, short of a credible military threat.


Mohammad HaShemi who planned the attack on the US embassy in 1979 told Mark Bowden, writer of the book “ Guests of the Ayatollah’,  in 2006 the following:

“One of the features of the Iranian people is that it protests veraciously against oppression and injustice. Secondly our pride is very important to us. We can starve from hunger or lose everything, but we’ll never sacrifice our pride.”

This theme is also featuring prominently in Iran’s rhetoric regarding the nuclear program.

By now it should be clear that Iran will not voluntarily give up its nuclear program, even if this means the country will be reduced to beggary.

As for Israel, a short look into the history of the Jewish state teaches that it always acted in case of an existential threat.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that Iran will be attacked by the Israeli Air Force.

The Stuxnet attack and the increase in  mysterious assassinations and explosions in Iran could explain why Barak said ‘we don’t need big wars’