Sunday, February 15, 2009

Israeli Media: Do NOT(!!!) Bomb Iran

In the midst of a wave of euphoria and hubris on the part of "bloody-flag-waving" politicians in Israel, a wholesale rightwing movement by the Israeli electorate comes a cool, reasoned essay in the Israeli media calling for peace with Iran.

The Prime Minister's Bureau will probably soon be occupied by a politician whose career has been partially based on Iran scare tactics. Benjamin Netanyahu, formerly "Mr. Terror," is now "Mr. Iran," and has declared that "Iran will have no nuclear arms."

Notwithstanding the boisterous nature of the declaration, this will hopefully be the case, but if what Netanyahu means is that Israel, under his leadership, may become embroiled in an attack on Iran, then there is room for grave concern. Now is the time to tell Netanyahu: "No bombing." Netanyahu (and some among us) should drop any thoughts about a military option.

Israelis have learned to judge Iran according to the threats of its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Even if their impression is partially correct, it still constitutes demonization. Just like Israel is not all Avigdor Liebermans, a pyromaniac in his own right, Iran is not all Ahmadinejads, although he is in power....

The U.S. is not the only one on the verge of change - so is Iran. The U.S. is after elections and Iran is before them; from both, new and encouraging voices are being heard. Barack Obama has avoided issuing threats against Iran in recent statements, and Ahmadinejad responded that he proposes "holding talks on the basis of mutual respect." This is excellent news, which is more capable than any bomb of neutralizing danger.

It is now necessary to grant a genuine chance to the new winds blowing between Washington and Tehran, and avoid inflaming the situation with bellicose declarations. Israel's war drums should promptly be put away. Netanyahu and Lieberman need to forget their inflammatory rhetoric before they stir the justified ire of Washington. Perhaps diplomatic exchanges will succeed in stopping Iran from going nuclear, but even if they don't, it would be best for Israel to get used to the idea that Iran may join the club of which, according to foreign reports, Israel, India and Pakistan, among others, are members. What is even more important is for Israel to finally wean itself of the ideology that force is a solution to everything, and that it is the policeman (aka thug) of the Middle East. Hamas isn't being nice? We'll bring it down by force. Iran and Syria have reactors? We'll bomb them. Imad Mughniyeh is dangerous? We'll assassinate him.

Once in a while this can work, but it can also end in disaster - and certainly will against Iran.

If Israeli decision-makers did in fact attack Gaza to test the hypothesis that an attack on Iran would succeed and if Israeli decision-makers are in fact "learning" from their attack the lesson that violence works, then here at least is one voice from the Israeli elite with a calmer, more reasoned perspective. The danger to Israeli democracy resulting from its policy of security through the frequent intense use of military force is slowly becoming recognized in Israel. Whatever the impact of this single Israeli media essay on Israeli elite decision-making, it is at least somewhat reassuring that such articles can be published in the mainstream Israeli media.

Rhetoric, especially when as inaccurately translated as much of Ahmadinejad's has been, is no basis for policy. Why can't we find politicians capable of speaking...and acting...with this degree of clear thinking?

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