In this coming Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, the Israeli journalist Ronan Bergman does a first rate job of reporting—based on interviews with virtually every major player in Israel’s government and intelligence community—on the question of what, if anything, Israel can do about Iran acquiring a nuclear bomb. Here is what he says on how Israelis perceive the position of the Obama administration:
For their part, the Israelis suspect that the Obama administration has abandoned any aggressive strategy that would ensure the prevention of a nuclear Iran and is merely playing a game of words to appease them. The Israelis find evidence of this in the shift in language used by the administration, from “threshold prevention” — meaning American resolve to stop Iran from having a nuclear-energy program that could allow for the ability to create weapons — to “weapons prevention,” which means the conditions can exist, but there is an American commitment to stop Iran from assembling an actual bomb.
“I fail to grasp the Americans’ logic,” a senior Israeli intelligence source told me. “If someone says we’ll stop them from getting there by praying for more glitches in the centrifuges, I understand. If someone says we must attack soon to stop them, I get it. But if someone says we’ll stop them after they are already there, that I do not understand.”
On the big question, he concludes with the following paragraph:
After speaking with many senior Israeli leaders and chiefs of the military and the intelligence, I have come to believe that Israel will indeed strike Iran in 2012. Perhaps in the small and ever-diminishing window that is left, the United States will choose to intervene after all, but here, from the Israeli perspective, there is not much hope for that. Instead there is that peculiar Israeli mixture of fear — rooted in the sense that Israel is dependent on the tacit support of other nations to survive — and tenacity, the fierce conviction, right or wrong, that only the Israelis can ultimately defend themselves.
Bergman’s piece dovetails in many respects with the contrary argument of our colleague Barry Rubin, who writes in PJMedia today with a conclusion precisely the opposite of Bergman:
Iran will get nuclear weapons. Iran is not going to stop its nuclear drive (though it could stop short of actually building bombs or warheads ready to go). Western policies are not so bold or adventurous as to go to war; Israel’s interests and capabilities do not make attacking sensible. An attack would not solve but increase problems. And no matter how crazy you think Iran’s regime is, the inescapable predicable threat is not high enough to force policymakers to risk getting hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people killed, when the chance of avoiding such an outcome is very high.
So who is right? We report: You decide.