In a remarkably depressing article, Cliff Thier writes that Israel is finished when Iran gets its nuclear weapons, even if they are not used.
The minute Iran has the bomb, Israel will begin to shrink. Jews in Israel will start to pack up and leave. Some at first, but more and more over time, Israelis will leave. Panic will begin to set in after the first 100,000 Jews or so have left their homes vacant. Businesses will be unable to fill job openings. The armed forces will find themselves combining brigades and companies.
There’s more emotional prose, including the image of newspapers blowing along empty streets, but you get the idea.
The fact is, that despite the fact that the Obama Administration is strongly opposed to an Israeli attack on Iran, Israel will fight for her life in a way that nobody envisions — not Iran and not the US — when the red line is crossed. Despite the political weakness of recent regimes and even a certain spiritual malaise affecting some segments of Israeli society, this is not a nation that will sit under a nuclear shadow and wait. The lessons of the Holocaust are part of the national consciousness in Israel, much more so than among Diaspora Jews.
But Thier thinks that this outcome is inevitable, because the US administration will not allow Israel to strike until it is too late, even if it must use military force to prevent it:
Israel knows it must do take out the nuclear weapons capability of Iran. And yet, Israel will not be able to do it. Not because it doesn’t have the military might to do so. And not because it lacks the will. But because Barack Obama will order the United States Air Force to stand in its way if it tries. Between the airfields of Israel and the reactors and research labs and storage facilities of Iran sit the armed forces of the United States and its hundreds of planes, missiles and radar. With our bases in Iraq and those floating in the Persian Gulf, the United States separates Israel and Iran. Obama would have to give his okay for Israel to pass. Obama will not.
With all due respect to the US Air Force and Navy, as well as the x-band radar which the US has installed at Nevatim, near Beersheba — and from which Israeli personnel are barred — Israel will find a way to do what is necessary. Survival is a powerful motivator, and the history of the IDF could be told as a series of episodes of solving problems like this. The destruction of the Iraqi (1981) and Syrian (2008) atomic reactors are examples.
Thier also goes on at length about the way Obama bowed to Saudi King Abdullah at the recent G-20 summit, in support of his thesis that Obama has decided to tilt towards the Arab world and away from Israel (never mind that Bush, too, bowed to the Saudi monarch), and he castigates American Jews for their unreasonable support for Obama (never mind Republican incompetence in governing and campaigning).
Leaving aside Thier’s political hobbyhorse, he’s right that powerful elements of the US administration are pushing to move the US away from Israel and in the direction of the Muslim world. This is not necessarily the same direction — Saudi Arabia and Egypt are on a very different wavelength from Iran and Syria, for example. But there is no question that the one way to make all the Arabs and Iranians happy is to withdraw support for Israel; and while most US officials would say that we continue to support Israel, some would add that we have favored Israel, and that we should stop.
But this is disingenuous. Unfortunately for Israel, she is engaged in a struggle to survive, and a US tilt away from her would be disastrous. I am sure that many of those who advocate it, like Zbig Brzezinski or Brent Scowcroft, understand this quite well and wouldn’t shed a tear over Israel if the worst happened.
And as I’ve argued, rather than Thier’s nightmare scenario of Israel withering under Iranian nuclear threat while the US stays its hand, the most likely outcome will be that Israel will take necessary action anyway, sooner rather than later.