Israel ‘not rushing into Iran war’

Shimon Peres to tell Aipac conference what analysts also suggest is the case – that Israel is in no hurry to attack Iran

Israel is not rushing towards war with Iran, President Shimon Peres will say on Sunday as he emphasises the value of the Israeli-American relationship in an attempt to smooth tensions between the two allies over the possibility of military action against the Islamic republic.

According to a report in the Israeli daily Haaretz, Peres will tell the Washington conference of the pro-Israel lobby group Aipac:

Israel is not rushing into war. We are a country that always seeks out peace and peace is always our preferred option, but our enemies should make no mistakes. We have fought six wars that were forced upon us and we have won them all. If another war is forced upon us, we will fight it and we will win it.

Peres will also say he is “confident that the United States will always stand by Israel”. Israel owes a debt to the US, and “sometimes it does no harm to say ‘thank you’ “.

He is due to speak shortly before President Barack Obama addresses the conference in what as seen as a crucial speech. Obama will seek to reassure delegates that he will watch Israel’s back amid continuing anxiety in the US administration that the Jewish state is planning military action against Iran.

He will meet the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, on Monday for talks on the issue. Netanyahi is expected to indicate that Israel will back off only if the US explicitly threatens to take military action itself should the Iranian nuclear programme advance beyond specific “red lines”.

Speculation about Israel’s intentions continued to swirl ahead of an intensive two days of speeches and meetings. The Israeli columnist Gideon Levy wrote in Haaretz on Sunday that Israel was dictating policy to the White House:

A new chapter is being written in the history of nations. Never before has a small country dictated to a superpower; never before has the chirp of a cricket sounded like a roar; never has the elephant resembled an ant – and vice versa … When [Netanyahu] goes to the White House tomorrow he will make a new demand: Either you or we [attack Iran], putting the leader of the free world in a tight spot. Obama does not want to ensnare his country in another war or in an energy crisis, but when Netanyahu hath demanded, who will not fear?

In a long article for Foreign Policy, the US-based Israeli analyst Daniel Levy explores the domestic dynamics in Netanyahu’s considerations on whether to launch military action. The prime minister, he says, has no domestic political need to go to war, and would face a barrage of criticism within Israel if he did:

A tendency characterising Netanyahu’s long term in office, and a counterintuitive one at that, is the degree to which he has been risk-averse, not only in matters of peace, but also in matters of war. No Operation Cast Leads, Lebanon wars, or Syria Deir ez-Zor attack missions under his watch. In fact, he has no record of military adventurism. What’s more, Netanyahu hardly appears to be in need of a Hail Mary pass, military or otherwise, to salvage his political fortunes. Polls consistently show that he is a shoo-in for re-election. The right-wing block in Israel currently has a hegemonic grip on Israeli politics, something that seems unlikely to change …

Former security establishment figures at the highest levels have mounted an unprecedented campaign warning Israel’s leader and its public of the follies of launching a solo and premature Israeli military action against Iran. Most outspoken has been recently retired Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who has described a strike on Iran as ‘the stupidest thing I have ever heard’. But he has not been alone. Other former IDF chiefs of staff, as well as Shin Bet and intel leaders, have joined the cautioning chorus. Many are unlikely to shut up if Bibi [Netanyahu] defies their counsel. And in the public arena, these voices cannot be dismissed as just so many self-serving chickenhawk politicians. The fallout from an attack on Iran is possibly the biggest threat to Bibi serving a third term.

The piece is headlined: Netanyahu won’t attack Iran – although the caveat (Probably) is appended in small letters. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

from Shimon Peres, Harriet Sherwood


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