The leaders of Israel must soon make a judgment. The survival of the country, and the lives of its people, are on the line. But they have no obvious choice, if they ever had. The strategic problem is more complex by far than the tactical problem.
The Iran problem
Iran creates the obvious problem for Israel. The Iranians are building a nuclear bomb,and a missile to carry that bomb to Israel. The Israelis know it. They want to stop it. The Iranians will do whatever they can to keep the program going, and get others to hit Israel back if Israel hits them.
How can Israel attack Iran? A long-range bombing run would be hard under any circumstances. They want to take a load of bombs to Iran, drop them, and get back. Any route they take will take them over someone else’s land. They tried to get permission to fly over Turkey and Azerbaijan. The news leaked out. (Did Barack Obama leak it? Probably.) Now neither country will let Israel do this. So that’s out. (Or is it?)
WND, on its premium site, two days ago suggested another thing Israel might do. They might launch a nuclear missile, a Jericho III. They would time the warhead to blow up, not on the ground, but high in the air over Iran. This would make an electromagnetic pulse, like lightning striking everywhere over Iran at once. It wouldn’t make people sick on the ground. But it would burn out every electrical or electronic device. Lights go out. You can’t call anyone on the phone. The TV won’t work. (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can’t get on the air? He might go nuts if that lasts too long.) And maybe those centrifuges won’t work (the ones they use to enrich uranium). Furthermore, Iran’s generals can’t get their orders out. They pick up the phone, and get no dial tone.
Or if Israel is really desperate, they might make an EMP to blanket all the Middle East. Israel would suffer, too. But the Tzahal have hardened their electronic systems against that sort of thing. Israeli civilians would lose power for a few days. Meanwhile, they could fly their bombing run to Iran and back, and no one would be able to stop them.
No one knows for sure whether Israel has anything like that. And if they use it, they’ll show the rest of the world what an EMP can do.
Israel ready for long war?
No one in Israel seems to think a war with Iran would be short. The home defense minister told Israeli citizens to get ready for 30 days of war, and to spend much of that in a bomb shelter. (The government has handed out gas masks and antidote kits for several days.) He has good reason. Hezbollah, from their Lebanon base, said they would make life “hell” for Israel if Israel attacks Iran. (Can Iran itself hit back? The Supreme Leader threatens to. Whether he can or not, no one really knows.)
How hard can they hit? Hezbollah has about 70,000 missiles that could fly as far south as Dimona. (Dimona is Israel’s nuclear research city, their “Oak Ridge.”) HAMAS in Gaza has 10,000 more missiles, and the Syrians have nerve gas, germs, and so on. But how likely are they to use them? Once they fire a missile, it’s gone. Syria can’t replace it anymore. And Israel would still have troops and planes to spare to hit back. Israel knows this. Nor is Syria likely to send its army to fight a war with Israel while also fighting rebels at home.
But Israel has another problem: Egypt. Egypt has grown more militant than ever in the last two weeks. First, Mohammed Morsi purged the top ranks of Egypt’s generals. Then reports filtered out of Egypt that militant Muslims were crucifying known opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood. Then came two more serious reports: Egypt is moving troops and anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles into the Sinai Desert. They say they’re doing it to deal with terrorists who have camped out in the Sinai. But under the Camp David Accord, they’re supposed to ask Israel first before they do anything like this. They did not even tell Israel anything. And why would they need anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns and missiles to deal with terrorists? Columnist Arlene Kushner sums up: if Egypt is fighting against terrorists in the Sinai, will they pull back when the fight’s over?
Morsi has said often that he sees Jerusalem becoming the capital of a new Arab caliphate. He might try to make that real if Israel attacks Iran and then has to fight Iran’s friends for thirty days. Thus any war that Israel gets into, will be regional.
Israel and the US
Finally, Israel cannot ignore the United States. Israel’s leaders gave Barack Obama every chance to deal with Iran effectively. Now US voters are about to choose whether to keep Barack Obama or not. Israel does not want Barack Obama to have another four years. Relations between the US and Israel are a disaster. Netanyahu’s choices are not pretty, nor clear-cut:
- Attack now, or at least before the vote. Advantage: Obama would not dare condemn Israel. (He’d lose five percent of the popular vote just for that, and it would cost him every “battleground” State.) Disadvantage: Obama could make a show of supporting Israel, and the American people might not want to change leaders in the middle of a “crisis.”
- Delay the attack until after the vote. Advantage: Obama might lose, so that would solve the “change leaders in mid-crisis” problem. Disadvantage: Israel can’t wait too long.
The latest reports suggest that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not wait for the vote. Last Friday he had officials in the Defense Ministry tell an opposition party leader what’s going on. Did he also tell him he was about to go to war? The world might soon find out.
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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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