The strategy of the new Israeli government is to avoid making a deal with the Palestinians by changing the subject. Instead of talking about Palestine, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman want to talk about Iran.
Unfortunately, General Petraeus is helping them change the subject. In remarks yesterday, Petraeus said:
“The Israeli government may ultimately see itself so threatened by the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon that it would take preemptive military action to derail or delay it.”
Rather more calmly, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said:
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates estimated in a Financial Times interview that Israel will not attack Iran this year. “I guess I would say I would be surprised…if they did act this year,” Gates said.
Asked whether Iran would cross a nuclear “red line” this year, Gates said: “I don’t know, I would guess probably not. I think we have more time than that. How much more time I don’t know. It is a year, two years, three years. It is somewhere in that window.”
Actually, there is plenty of time, as Gates suggests. Iran hasn’t enriched an ounce of uranium to weapons grade. It doesn’t have the means to deliver a weapon, even if could build one. And it’s unclear that Iran has the technical knowhow to build a bomb, even if it did manage to enrich the uranium it possesses.
Netanyahu, eager to change the subject from Palestine, is already blustering — on his first day in office — that he’s contemplating an attack on Iran. He told The Atlantic, which titled its bombastic interview “Netanyahu to Obama: Stop Iran–Or I Will”:
“The Obama presidency has two great missions: fixing the economy, and preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons. … You don’t want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs. When the wide-eyed believer gets hold of the reins of power and the weapons of mass death, then the entire world should start worrying, and that is what is happening in Iran.
“Iran is a composite leadership, but in that composite leadership there are elements of wide-eyed fanaticism that do not exist right now in any other would-be nuclear power in the world. That’s what makes them so dangerous.