New Israeli government likely won’t launch Iran attack

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu moved from the far right to just the Right on Tuesday by bringing into his government the center-right Kadima Party, led by Shaul Mofaz.

Mofaz has been sharply critical of reported plans by Netanyahu and his defense minister Ehud Barak, to launch a go-it-alone military attack on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. Mofaz is not opposed to military action against Iran in and of itself, but wants it coordinated with the United States. He last week aligned himself with the views of former Israel domestic intelligence head Yuval Diskin, who strongly opposed a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran and who attacked Netanyahu as erratic. Mofaz said, “Let President Obama handle Iran. We can trust him…”

Having Mofaz in the cabinet makes Netanyahu less dependent on extreme hawks, and makes it highly unlikely that Israel will act on its own against Iran. I say this despite some attempts of right wing Israeli and pro-Israeli outfits like the so-called ‘Washington Institute for Near East Policy’ (which should be ‘Tel Aviv Institute for Near East Policy) to spin the news by saying that the new government is not necessarily less hawkish on Iran. Of course it is! Since the saber rattling by Netanyahu was part of a psychological war with Iran, Jewish nationalist hawks can’t afford to have this simple reality stated.

Mofaz’s joining the government comes at a time of changing leadership in Europe. Francois Hollande, the new French president, is less hawkish on Iran than was Nicolas Sarkozy. And, Vladimir Putin is now president of Russia again, and has been far more outspoken in wanting to prevent a Western attack on Iran than was Dmitri Medvedev, who seemed to vacillate with regard to Tehran.

Netanyahu can now remain prime minister until scheduled elections in October of 2013. He had just the day before called for new elections, in part because his Haredim (Jewish fundamentalist) allies would not accept a new bill providing for Haredim to serve in the Israeli military, nor would they accept Netanyahu’s plans to demolish illegal Israeli settlements on the West Bank.

Netanyahu therefore likely brought Kadima on board so as to be less beholden to Shas and other parties that strongly back the Haredim. Moreover, the extreme right in Netanyahu’s cabinet had blocked any serious negotiations with the Palestinians, putting Netanyahu in difficulties with the US & Europe, whereas Mofaz has a plan for moving forward on the Palestinian front, which he presented to Netanyahu on joining his government. (It is patronizing and unrealistic, but no one else in the government has even talked about the need to formulate a plan).

The coalition was made possible because Shaul Mofaz, who was born in Iran, had recently replaced Tzipi Livni as head of Kadima. Livni had refused to join a Netanyahu-led government. Mofaz is less rigid on the issue. Likewise Kadima was facing the loss of several seats if elections had been held. They would likely have been picked up by the Labor Party, which could have more than doubled its strength. Labor and the liberal Meretz Party were furious about the back room deal, which deprived them of a chance to grow the number of seats they hold.

Aljazeera English reports:

9 Responses

  1. I would not describe Meretz as center-left.

    They are Israel’s equivalent of the Green Party, although they are Zionist in orientation, unlike the U.S. Green Party.

    I expect the Mofaz plan on the Palestinian issue to be unrealistic and go nowhere.

    Contiuing the status quo in the West Bank has been the Israeli government plan for decades while beefing up settlement activity.

  2. Of course Israel will not attack Iran. The Israeli Defense Force only attacks populations or countries who only have minimal to no way of retaliating against their vicious attacks.

    Prime example, last year IDF thugs/terrorist boarded a ship carrying aid to Gaza. In the slaughter that followed, terrorfied innoncent aid workers, who had no weapons, were fired upon and taken captive by these macho henchmen, a clear violation of international law.

    Palestinians see their homes bulldozed and land stolen on a regular basis, while the IDF hovers ready to kill any Palestinian willing to stand up to Israel’s unrestrained tyranny.

    No sir, Israeli leaders have already let it be known that it would be best to get the Americans to fight another proxy war, rather than see young Jewish men coming home in body bags.

    • Exactly, the Second Lebanon War was one which initially had popular suport among both Israelis and Jewish-American pro-Israel activists. There was a sharp drop in that popularity when the high casualty figures began coming in for the IDF and Northern Israeli residents. 166 Israelis died in that conflict and the political and military leaders in Isarel that led it were heavily criticized by the Winograd Commission.

      Israel has not re-entered Lebanon since the conclusion of that war in the summer of 2006.

      • Gee thanks, what a relief to not be invaded in the last 6 years. Lebanon is still reeling from this attack. Humanely (cluster bombs are still killing kids), economically (our power grid is no even half of what it used to be), and politically (has irreversibly strengthened the hand of Hizbullah). So all in all a stupid and criminal mistake.

  3. This is a optimistic read of the tea leaves, and it is reasonable enough as far as it goes.

    You may be right, and this is a more positive turn, but Israel’s foreign policy re its neighbors has always been based on coercion, and its grip over the US to run interference or otherwise empower them will be slipping unless Romney is elected. Israel is quickly reaching a point of having to use its power (such as it is in the case of Iran), or loosing it. Being committed to a certain philosophy re “Peace,” it will be needing to reinforce its regional dominance and reputation, or its position will begin to slip irreversibly.

    Israel is by their history evidently committed to a certain style of Peace, and its actions stand to be dictated by that premise, the passing political facade notwithstanding.

  4. This is the only coherent analysis I’ve read about Kadima joining the Netanyahu coalition.

    If you don’t see the significance of this analysis, you’d have to dismiss the last few months of prominent Israeli military and intelligence leaders facing off against Netanyahu because this expanded coalition is the (but not the only) political reflection of the divisions in Israeli society over Iran.

    I think some commenters don’t see that political dynamics plays out in many ways. The pull against bombing Iran within Israeli society ended up checking the war seekers.

    Ihose in the vanguard of criticizing Diskin were Likkud hacks. Netanyahu and Barak have been strangely quiet, even though two months ago, Israeli newspapers were floating the idea that Israel would be able to absorb Iran’s response to an attack.

    Those who say that Israeli policy on peace is set in stone are just wrong. The PM before Netanyahu had 36 neetings with Pres. Abbas seeking a ‘final status’ solution.

    At some point Netanyahu has to respond to his Iran critics. This was the best face-saving way for him to do it.

    The real problems will start if Iran doesn’t give something to the Western negotiators that takes the threat of attack away. Then Obama (or god forbid, Romney) will be calling the final shot.

    • If Netanyahu and his long-time friend Romney were plotting an October surprise to win the US election, it required unilateral action. It sounds like Netanyahu now has a ramshackle coalition that is incapable of this strength of will. He’s lost his leverage in this particular conflict.

      Or as Prof. Cole has always said, Netanyahu was just a bully who could be stood up to, and now it’s caught up with him.

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