After months of quiet, the drumbeat out of Israel for a war with Iran has started again. Iran is on the verge of a nuclear bomb, a point of “no return” as some Israeli politicians have it, and squadrons of anonymous sources, credulous reporters, and columnists have been mobilized to get out the word.
What happens next? Almost certainly a few months of quiet. And then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or a fellow hawk will strike up the band and we’ll do this dance again.
Israel’s security establishment is far from united on Iran,with many warning that a preemptive war could do more harm than good to Israel’s interests. Israel and Western powers have been periodically warning that the Islamic Republic of Iran was on the verge of building a nuclear bomb since the early 1980s. As far back as 1992, Mr. Netanyahu, then a member of the Israeli parliament, said that Iran was five years away from a bomb and that its nuclear program must be “uprooted by an international front headed by the US.”
That doesn’t mean this latest round of the “sky is falling” Iran-Israel nuclear dance should be ignored. Rumors of war have a habit of becoming war when they carry on for long enough. Israeli anxiety about a nuclear Iran isn’t feigned, and it would like to remain the region’s sole nuclear armed state. And while it’s hotly debated whether Iran is actually seeking the bomb, merely the technical skills to build a bomb, or only a peaceful nuclear power program, increasing technical confidence in Iran will always frighten Israelis. Some day it’s possible that the band will play on.