A close reading of Jeffrey Goldberg's Atlantic article.

Military analysis.
Aug. 11 2010 7:13 PM

Will Israel Bomb Iran?

A close reading of Jeffrey Goldberg's Atlantic article.

(Continued from Page 2)

And it may provide cover for the Saudis and other Arab nations—which fear and distrust Iran almost as much as Israel does—to join the pressure campaign against Tehran and perhaps, though covertly, help Israel more than they might otherwise if military action becomes unavoidable.

Those who find this notion outlandish should recall that, in July 2006, a few days after Hezbollah militiamen in southern Lebanon crossed the border, killed three Israeli soldiers, and kidnapped two others, prompting retaliation from Israeli rockets and artillery, the Arab League issued a statement condemning Hezbollah and supporting Israel's right to self-defense. Some specialists urged then-President George W. Bush to seize the moment—a potential strategic turning point—with a round of shuttle diplomacy. But he didn't; the Israelis escalated their strikes to disproportionate levels; and the Arab League backed away.

However, Goldberg doubts that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will initiate this sort of diplomacy, and his analysis of why is one of the most disturbing things about the Atlantic article. The key to understanding this fact is the prime minister's 100-year-old father, Ben-Zion Netanyahu, a former secretary to Vladimir Jabotinsky, the founder of the most militant branch of Zionism and a firm opponent of any territorial concessions. A friend of the prime minister's told Goldberg, "Always in the back of Bibi's mind is Ben-Zion. He worries that his father will think he is weak." Another said that as long as the old man is alive, "Bibi could not withdraw more" from the West Bank "and still look into his father's eyes."

It's a thunderbolt of historical revelation to muse that, no less now than in the time of Greek tragedies, the fate of the most ancient turbulent region might be guided less by rational interests or Realpolitik than by father-son psychodramas, first the Bushes, now the Netanyahus.


One thing Goldberg writes is definitely true: Obama may soon be facing a defining moment, similar to John F. Kennedy's with the Cuban Missile Crisis but more complex, in that Kennedy had just Nikita Khrushchev to deal with, while Obama would have not only the (much more unpredictable) Iranians but also the Israelis and a slew of regional players to confront, accommodate, bargain with, or who knows what.

In October 1962, Kennedy and his advisers also had the luxury of 13 days to hammer out a solution, much of it spent in meetings whose very existence was kept secret (and whose deliberations were not truly revealed for a quarter-century with the release of Kennedy's White House tapes).

Obama and his team will not have that luxury. They might have to make momentous decisions and deals on the spot. Now's a good time, then, to figure out what they want the outcome of the coming crisis to be and how far they're willing to go to attain it.

Become a fan of Slate on Facebook. Follow Slate and the Slate Foreign Desk on Twitter.



Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?