Foreign Policy Blogs

Israel Is Ready To Attack Iran, But are the Israelis?

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (AP / Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Anyone casually following the news of Israel recently would assume that the question is not if, but when, Israel will attack Iran. No Israeli leader seems to be able to speak publicly without mentioning the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program and Israel’s need to prevent it from moving forward.

President Obama just gave an exclusive interview to Jeffrey Goldberg, who wrote the book (well, article) on Israel invading Iran, seemingly to convince him, Israel, and the American Jewish voters that he will stand up to Iran. His most memorable quote from the article was the simple warning to Iran that he “doesn’t bluff.”

The U.S., along with long-coveted international support, has only recently upped the ante when it comes to biting economic sanctions being levied against Iran. President Obama is asking for time to gauge their effectiveness. Prime Minister Netanyahu is not sure that there is enough time left.

It is clear that the two states, for similar and deviating rationales, do not want to see a nuclear armed Iran. Bibi believes, or deserves an Oscar for his portrayal of someone who believes, that a nuclear armed Iran is a guarantee of a second Holocaust. He has made it clear that this will not happen on his watch.

President Obama, despite what some of his critics currently duking it out for the GOP nomination claim, also does not want to see the annihilation of Israel. This much he has made clear, not only in words, but in deeds. But his fears of a nuclear armed Iran go beyond that. President Obama has staked out a platform of non-proliferation. While his policy has stalled significantly to date, a nuclear armed Iran all but ensures a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region on the planet.

If Iran becomes a nuclear power, there is every reason to think that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and potentially Jordan and/or Egypt will believe it necessary to follow suit. This is not good for Iran, this is not good for Israel, this is not good for the region, and this is certainly not good for the U.S. Non-proliferation concerns aside (in other words, forget the philosophical concept of less nukes good, more nukes bad), a nuclear armed Middle East is a sure to push that Doomsday Clock forward by a couple of minutes. If it strikes midnight, we are all toast, and it’s currently at 11:55pm. Presumably that midnight hour is something that most rational people might want to prevent.

The major difference between Obama and Netanyahu when it comes to a nuclear armed Iran is where they draw their line in the sand. Netanyahu draws his line at nuclear-capable, while the U.S. feels there is slightly more breathing room. There is still a red line resting firmly before nuclear armed. How far before is less clear.

Several prominent Israeli leaders, including a number of past heads of Israeli intelligence agencies, have come out against attacking Iran. But Israel as a state has been very clear on their commitment to using military force to prevent the nuclear arming of Iran should it come to that.

A new poll came out this week however, that had some surprising findings on the subject. While Israel as a state may be prepared to attack Iran, Israel as a people are decisively not, at least not without American support. Despite years of saber rattling on the part of the Netanyahu government in the hopes of convincing the world that this needs to happen without hesitation, he has apparently not convinced anywhere near a plurality of Israelis on the subject. According to the poll, a whopping 81% of Israelis do not favor attacking Iran without American consent and support. Pretty decisive numbers to say the least. And it is worth mentioning that the Israelis are not a people prone to worrying what others think about them. They have typically acted in their own best interests without spending too much time worrying about international public opinion. The poll also found that if America were to approve the strike, two thirds of Israelis would support moving forward.

The Jewish state was created to protect the Jewish people from a world that had failed it (depending of course on who you ask). The very fact that Israelis are willing to put such a massive decision on any other country, even such a tested and true ally, says a lot about the actual risk that most Israelis feel from Iran. If they honestly believed that Iran was seeking a nuclear weapon and that once they had achieved said nuclear weapon, they would immediately strap in onto the nearest warhead and send it off towards Tel Aviv, they would probably be a lot less concerned with what anyone, allies or otherwise, thought of their plans. A more in-depth study would have to be done to fully understand the psyche of the Israeli people on the issue, but it is clear that a nuclear armed Iran is not keeping them up nights the way that some in the Israeli government would have the world believe.

With that in mind, maybe Prime Minister Netanyahu and his cabinet should spend less time trying to convince the world that Iran must be attacked immediately to ward off imminent genocide, and more time taking the pulse of their constituents. Sometimes a leader speaks for his people. And sometimes he needs to stop speaking, and start listening.

Follow me on twitter @jlemonsk

  • shaggerley

    Tell me again – why is the US threatening war with Iran? Did they invade?

  • sam

    Go ahead BAD BOYS..DO it STop the Threats,If they Threatened you what would you do ? DO IT

  • Breanna Reynolds

    As the number one recipient of US aid, Israel is highly dependent on the US for its security and military power. The populace of Israel is highly aware of this, which contributes to its unwillingness to consider action without US support. The people of Israel know that they are unpopular in the region and lack the support of the Arab League, even in the face of possible Iranian nuclear armament, mostly due to historical tensions and the long-term Israeli occupation of Palestine. Israel remains unwilling to end the occupation or make concessions in agreements with the Palestinian Authority, and even the US has denounced this resilience. Perhaps Prime Minister Netanyahu is focusing so thoroughly and dramatically on the Iranian issue in order to attempt to distract the people and other countries in the region from the wrongs being committed by the Israeli government. This type of effort to unite a people against a common enemy is nothing new to international politics, but whether or not it will work this time is unclear. How the US will react to Israeli escalation of war rhetoric and action is also unclear, but I believe it is important for Israel to try and lessen its reliance on US aid and attempt to build alliances within the region to counterbalance the rising threat of Iran. However, without concessions on the Palestinian issue, this seems unlikely.

  • Anon

    Threatening Iran
    Our Gang of War Criminals

  • veronique chalhoub

    We must agree to disagree on this issue. If Israel decided to launch a preemptive strike on Iran, this could be the beginning of WWIII. I doubt very much that Israel would divert the attention away from Palestinians’ demands by simply bombing Iran for the sake of it
    Netanyahu at UN: Palestinians can get state only after peace with Israel
    Netanyahu;’’ Israel is prepared to have a Palestinian state in the West Bank, but we’re not prepared to have another Gaza there,” Netanyahu stressed. “The Palestinians must first make peace with Israel, and only then get their state.”
    How you want Israel to give Palestinians a state, and Palestinians themselves don’t acknowledge Israel’s rights to exist. Despite the fact that the PLO recognized Israel’s rights to be, their insidious activities have shown otherwise to be contrary to their principles and constitution.
    PLO Charter: Article 27: ‘’The Palestine Liberation Organization shall cooperate with all Arab states, each according to its potentialities; and will adopt a neutral policy among them in the light of the requirements of the war of liberation; and on this basis it shall not interfere in the internal affairs of any Arab state.’’
    The Damour Massacre of 1976 in Lebanon speaks volume of this insidious movement, the Palestinians. Lebanese Christians and Israelis don’t want them for they know how this movement operates and switch parties instantly and foment problems. Especially in Lebanon, the Palestinians have ties to Druze and Sunnis both of which have collaborated against the Christians community and performed ethnic cleansing on Christians. The integration of Palestinians in Lebanon have fueled many wars and sullied the relation between Israel and Lebanon, a tactic used by Palestinians to encroach on the rights of others.
    In my opinion and I stick with it; Israel should strike Iran nuclear facilities even if they are used for energy purposes.
    A Dictatorial regime like Iran reacts first and litigates later.

  • veronique chalhoub

    i wanted to post Article 22 not 27 to show that the PLO charter does not aim to promote peace with israel but an indicative of dissidence

    Article 22: Zionism is a political movement organically associated with international imperialism and antagonistic to all action for liberation and to progressive movements in the world. It is racist and fanatic in its nature, aggressive, expansionist, and colonial in its aims, and fascist in its methods. Israel is the instrument of the Zionist movement, and geographical base for world imperialism placed strategically in the midst of the Arab homeland to combat the hopes of the Arab nation for liberation, unity, and progress. Israel is a constant source of threat vis-a-vis peace in the Middle East and the whole world. Since the liberation of Palestine will destroy the Zionist and imperialist presence and will contribute to the establishment of peace in the Middle East, the Palestinian people look for the support of all the progressive and peaceful forces and urge them all, irrespective of their affiliations and beliefs, to offer the Palestinian people all aid and support in their just struggle for the liberation of their homeland.

  • Lorrie k

    Thought provoking… And scary to think of the consequences were Israel to bomb Iran. Equally scary are the consequences to Israel should Iran get the capability to launch nuclear bombs.


Josh Klemons
Josh Klemons

Josh Klemons has an MA in International Peace and Conflict Resolution with a concentration in the Middle East from American University. He has lived, worked and studied in Israel and done extensive traveling throughout the region. He once played music with Hadag Nachash.

He now works as a digital storyteller/strategist with brands on finding, honing and telling their stories online. Follow him on twitter @jlemonsk and check him out at