There remains hope that the people who actually have an understanding of the situation will restrain the politicians. It's hard to dismiss the current and past heads of the Mossad as "anti-Israel" or "soft on defense."
A nuclear-armed Iran wouldn't necessarily constitute a threat to Israel's continued existence, Mossad chief Tamir Pardo reportedly hinted earlier this week.
On Tuesday evening, Pardo addressed an audience of about 100 Israeli ambassadors. According to three ambassadors present at the briefing, the intelligence chief said that Israel was using various means to foil Iran's nuclear program and would continue to do so, but if Iran actually obtained nuclear weapons, it would not mean the destruction of the State of Israel.
The ambassadors said Pardo did not comment on the possibility of an Israeli military assault on Iran."What is the significance of the term existential threat?" the ambassadors quoted Pardo as asking. "Does Iran pose a threat to Israel? Absolutely. But if one said a nuclear bomb in Iranian hands was an existential threat, that would mean that we would have to close up shop and go home. That's not the situation. The term existential threat is used too freely."
"But what was clearly implied by his remarks is that he doesn't think a nuclear Iran is an existential threat to Israel," one of the envoys said.
For the past several years, Netanyahu has characterized a nuclear Iran as an existential threat to Israel. The prime minister has even compared Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Adolf Hitler and argued that Iran should be treated as Nazi Germany should have been dealt with in 1938, just before World War II. In contrast, Barak said in April 2010 that Iran "was not an existential threat at the moment," but warned that it could become one in the future.Pardo's remarks follow lively a public debate in recent months over a possible Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. One of the figures at the center of this public debate has been Pardo's predecessor as Mossad chief, Meir Dagan. Dagan has argued that Israel should only resort to military force "when the knife is at its throat and begins to cut into the flesh." He has also criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, accusing them of pushing for an Israeli attack on Iran, and warned that such an assault would have disastrous consequences.
In the cabinet, Netanyahu and Barak have been the leading proponents of a preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. So far, however, they have not managed to convince a majority of either the "octet" forum of eight senior ministers or the diplomatic-security cabinet to support their position.
Otto von Bismarck, master of Realpolitik, probably said it best: "Preemptive war is like committing suicide for fear of death."