Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shows an illustration as he describes his concerns over Iran's nuclear ambitions during his address to the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters, Sep. 27, 2012.
"Inside Bibi's Bunker"
Op-Ed, Foreign Policy
October 4, 2012
Author: Chuck Freilich, Senior Fellow, International Security Program
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security
How Israel's prime minister is stacking his cabinet for a strike on Iran.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's use of a cartoon bomb to illustrate Israel's red lines regarding the Iranian nuclear program may have elicited guffaws among the foreign-policy punditocracy, but the issue is no laughing matter. In fact, Israel's entire defense bureaucracy has long been engaged in an exhaustive assessment of what is undoubtedly among the most difficult decisions Israel has ever faced — and perhaps the most difficult since David Ben-Gurion declared independence.
Israelis remain divided over what to do about Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon. Many believe that a nuclear Iran poses an existential threat, in the truest sense of the word, and that Israel must do everything within its power to prevent such an outcome. Others believe that the threat is "merely" dire, though probably not existential, that Israel should do everything within reason to prevent it — but not necessarily everything possible — and that Israel could, in extremis, live with a nuclear Iran.
In the past year these differences became public, with former senior officials accusing Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak of irresponsible behavior, and various ministers and senior defense officials indicating that they oppose military action at this time. Conversely, Netanyahu and Barak issued a number of statements in August aimed at preparing the Israeli public for a conflict with Iran. With his speech at the United Nations, Netanyahu has now begun preparing the international community as well....
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