Amos Yadlin, a former chief of Israeli intelligence and director of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, discussed this difference of perspective in his op-ed article published by the New York Times on March 1st. The article is entitled “Israel’s Last Chance to Strike Iran“:
Today, Israel sees the prospect of a nuclear Iran that calls for our annihilation as an existential threat. An Israeli strike against Iran would be a last resort, if all else failed to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program. That moment of decision will occur when Iran is on the verge of shielding its nuclear facilities from a successful attack — what Israel’s leaders have called the ‘zone of immunity’…
Israel doesn’t have the safety of distance, nor do we have the United States Air Force’s advanced fleet of bombers and fighters. America could carry out an extensive air campaign using stealth technology and huge amounts of ammunition, dropping enormous payloads that are capable of hitting targets and penetrating to depths far beyond what Israel’s arsenal can achieve.
This gives America more time than Israel in determining when the moment of decision has finally been reached. And as that moment draws closer, differing timetables are becoming a source of tension…
Asking Israel’s leaders to abide by America’s timetable, and hence allowing Israel’s window of opportunity to be closed, is to make Washington a de facto proxy for Israel’s security — a tremendous leap of faith for Israelis faced with a looming Iranian bomb.
Israel has a fleet of advanced F-16 fighter planes. Its military has repeatedly shown incredible ingenuity in retrofitting imported military equipment with Israeli technology to meet Israel’s own military strategies. Israel also has some bunker-busting bombs, which were supplied by the Obama administration. However, Israel obviously does not have the most advanced military capabilities that the U.S. has to reach all or most of Iran’s widely dispersed and deeply buried nuclear development facilities. Nevertheless, as Israel’s past pre-emptive actions demonstrate, such as destroying much of the Egyptian air force at the outset of the Six-Day War, the bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981 and the destruction of the Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007, Israeli leaders will do whatever they believe they have to do to protect the Jewish nation from what they regard as existential threats.
The Obama-Netanyahu meeting next week will likely result in a communiqué indicating both leaders’ strong resolve to prevent Iran from going nuclear. Indeed, according to the Haaretz report, the White House has proposed to the Prime Minister’s Office that the two leaders release a joint statement following their meeting, the goal of which, according to the report, would be “to bridge apparent disagreements between the United States and Israel, and to present a single U.S.-Israeli front in order to leverage pressure on Iran.”
The joint statement may ratchet up the rhetoric a bit regarding the use of military force as a last resort option. But if Prime Minister Netanyahu is hoping for something much more concrete, such as Obama’s unequivocal public support for Israel if it decides it must take military action alone to defend itself or, alternatively, a public ironclad American assurance that the United States will do whatever is necessary to prevent a nuclear Iran before it is too late, I think he will be disappointed.
If history is any guide, regardless of whether Obama pledges unequivocal support for whatever Israel decides to do to defend itself or hints to Netanyahu privately that the United States will not stand in Israel’s way, Israel will most likely choose to act against Iran while it still can.
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