I know Israeli politics is even crankier and more partisan than ours, but even so it’s hard not be impressed by the number of national security figures who have recently suggested that prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is basically a nutcase. Here’s the latest:
“I don’t believe in a leadership that makes decisions based on messianic feelings,” said Yuval Diskin, who stepped down last May after six years running the Shin Bet, Israel’s version of the F.B.I.
“I have observed them from up close,” Mr. Diskin said. “I fear very much that these are not the people I’d want at the wheel.” Echoing Meir Dagan, the former head of the Mossad, Israel’s spy agency, Mr. Diskin also said that the government was “misleading the public” about the likely effectiveness of an aerial strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
….Ronen Bergman, an Israeli analyst and author of the 2008 book “The Secret War With Iran,” said in an interview that Mr. Diskin’s comments were significant because he left the government in good standing with Mr. Netanyahu — unlike Mr. Dagan, who was forced out — and because he was widely respected “for being professional and honest and completely disconnected from politics.”
In somewhat related news, the LA Times reports that President Obama is playing good cop to Netanyahu’s bad cop:
U.S. officials said they might agree to let Iran continue enriching uranium up to 5% purity, which is the upper end of the range for most civilian uses, if its government agrees to the unrestricted inspections, strict oversight and numerous safeguards that the United Nations has long demanded.
….A senior administration official said that if Iran fulfills U.S. and other world powers’ demands for strict enforcement of U.N. monitoring and safeguards, “there can be a discussion” of allowing low-level domestic enrichment, “and maybe we can get there, potentially.” But the official, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue, emphasized that such discussions remained only a small possibility because Iran has shown so little willingness to meet international demands.
Like Diskin, I continue to have my doubts that Israel could effectively take out Iran’s nuclear facilities on its own. I say this with a keen appreciation that I don’t know squat about operational military affairs, but even so, I still don’t see it. They could unquestionably do a bunch of damage, but given the distances involved and the size of the Israeli Air Force, it’s really hard to believe that they could do much more than set back the Iranian program a year or so.
All of which keeps me wondering what’s really going on here. Is Netanyahu really hellbent on a military strike? Or is there some kind of complicated Israeli-U.S. bluff unfolding? Neither option quite seems wholly believable, so I don’t really know what to believe. Stay tuned.