The Israeli Debate on Attacking Iran is Over

Foreign Policy: The Middle East Channel - August 20, 2012

Prof. Shai Feldman, Judith and Sidney Swartz Director of the Crown Center and Co-Chair of the Crown-Belfer Middle East Project at the Harvard Kennedy School  

For all practical purposes this weekend ended the Israeli debate on attacking Iran. What tipped the scales were two developments. The first was the decision of the country's president, Shimon Peres, to make his opposition to a military strike public. The second was an interview given by a former key defense advisor of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, questioning for the first time publically whether his former superior and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are fit to lead Israel in time of war.

Using every possible media outlet on the occasion of his 89th birthday, President Peres made clear last Thursday that "going it alone" -- attacking Iran without a clear understanding with the United States -- would be catastrophic. Peres did a great service to his country by focusing the debate away from some of the weaker arguments offered by opponents of a strike. Thus, the supposedly limited time that would be gained by such a strike was never convincing because in both previous experiences with such preventive action -- against Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981 and against the Syrian reactor in 2007 -- Israel ended up gaining more time than even the most optimistic proponents of these strikes had anticipated. ...