The following item appeared in Ha’aretz yesterday:
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said a few months ago in a series of closed discussions that in her opinion that Iranian nuclear weapons do not pose an existential threat to Israel…
Her precise meaning has not been made clear. Here is what I think makes sense:
It’s certain that if Iran succeeds in detonating a nuclear bomb in, say, Tel Aviv, it would be a great catastrophe. But Israel has the ability to preempt and defend against missile and other types of attack, given the delivery technology in Iran’s possession. So a massive attack that would “wipe Israel off the map” would not be likely to succeed.
In addition, and of overriding importance, Iran’s goals would not be served. Israel has a second-strike capability which almost certainly would do far more damage to Iran than Iran could do to Israel. Iran’s dream of being a world or even regional power would be over, her military, oil and industrial capacity decimated.
The real threat from Iran is less dramatic, but in the long run, more dangerous: regional domination — including control of oil resources in neighboring countries. Perhaps it could be accomplished just by bullying, without Iran needing to detonate any nuclear bombs.
This would result in an enormous increase in Iranian influence throughout the world. Iran would then have the ability to strangle Israel’s economy, drive away population, fight her by proxy, etc. This could, over a longer term, actually be worse for Israel than a partially successful nuclear attack.
There is no doubt that Livni understands this, and it is for this reason that she has said on numerous occasions that Iran must not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons. And since the possession of such makes effective action against them much more difficult or impossible, the urgency to take action is not diminished.
The threat is real and time to defuse it is short — even if it is less apocalyptic than one might imagine.