Salman Masalha ||
Preparing the ground for the big Iranian operation
Many people have been tempted to link the Gaza operation and the upcoming election. Even though war is sometimes a way to avoid dealing with domestic problems, the smoke that reached the Gaza sky this week wasn't connected to the Israeli election. Instead, one could view the attack on Gaza as part of a new plan, a master plan that turns its eyes east to Iran's nuclear program.
To understand this scenario, let's go back to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's comments and that famous sketch of a bomb at the podium of the UN General Assembly. By next spring, or at most next summer, the Iranians will enrich uranium to a medium level and enter the final stage, Netanyahu said. From there it's a few months or maybe only a few weeks until they have enough enriched uranium for their first atomic bomb. With a red magic marker he drew a line on the sketch and said that if there is a clear red line, Iran will pull back. That will give us more time to stop the Iranians from attaining nuclear weapons.
The early election is also closely linked to Netanyahu's red line at the United Nations. The election had been due next November, but Netanyahu, who sees events in the region on a messianic scale, wanted to reach the stage he marked in red, when he could make a difficult decision on Iran while being free of election considerations. This then is the real reason for bringing the election forward.
In this context, it's important to remember that the ideas of Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak aren't very different. Both see what's happening in the region and consider Israel "a villa in the jungle." They remain a close pair both politically and analytically.
The Iranian story remains at the top of their agenda. After all, Barak has said more than once that "we're preparing for that" - he has even forecast the number of dead: "War is no picnic but under no scenario will there be 50,000, 5,000 or even 500 dead."
From where does his analytical mind take these forecasts on the number of Israeli dead in the big operation against Iran that we're preparing for, as he has said? Obviously no one in Israel contends that Barak lacks a military understanding. Also, when we consider that no one depends solely on anti-missile defense like Iron Dome, despite its strong performance, there has to be another military plan in the analytical drawer.
It's possible the answer to this question is tied to the attack on Gaza. We must listen closely to Netanyahu's words: "Sooner or later, Iran's terror base in Gaza will be uprooted .... Gaza is Iran's forward position," he told the Knesset in March. "I'm not willing to put up with that, and no level-headed leader would accept that."
Therefore, the current operation can be called "the little southern Iranian operation," since it's designed to paralyze Iran's southern wing. The next operation will be "the little northern Iranian operation ": It will try to destroy Iran's Lebanon wing.
In this way, we reach Netanyahu's red line, the stage of a decision on "the big Iranian operation" - when Israel is free of the missile threat from the wings. That's apparently the plan of the Netanyahu-Barak duo.
Published: Opinions-Haaretz, Nov. 20, 2012
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