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Will Cooler Heads Prevail? Top Israeli General Puts The Brakes On The March To War

April 26, 2012

While the rhetoric of war is still ramping up in the U.S., there are hopeful signs that it may, in fact, be winding down in Israel. Here at home, we have the spectacle of Marco Rubio, one of the front-runners for the GOP Vice Presidential  nomination, telling an audience at the Brookings Institution that a unilateral military attack may be necessary to prevent Iran from developing the bomb.

“Our preferred option since the US became a global leader has been to work with others to achieve our goals,” Rubio said in an address at The Brookings Institution think-tank in Washington.

But “America has acted unilaterally in the past — and I believe it should continue to do so in the future — when necessity requires,” he added, alluding to Iran. (AP)

It is not an altogether surprising statement coming from a member of the GOP. Still, it is notable that tough talk of war remains a foundational part of the GOP’s appeal to voters this November. (Considering the public’s general fatigue with war and its costs.) But, hey, that’s just one of the burdens of standing by our greatest of allies, Israel. Right?

Indeed, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been ceaselessly marching toward an attack on Iran (one which might force the U.S. hand) for many months now. Finally, though, it appears he has lost the fight at home, at least within the Israeli security establishment. Juan Cole  points us toward two very important, and very public, developments.

First, Israeli deputy premier and minister of intelligence and atomic energy Dan Meridor gave an interview with Aljazeera English in which he admitted that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad never called for Israel to be ‘wiped off the face of the map.’

Why is this important? Because Netanyahu has used the claim that Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be ‘wiped off the face of the map’ ad nauseum as he rabble-rouses for war.  His own colleague publicly admitting the claim is false is a huge slap in Bibi’s face.  (Or as Cole says, “Meridor completely pulled the rug out from under Netanyahu, who has quoted ‘wipe off the face of the map’ till he was blue in the face.”)

Worse for Netanyahu and Rubio, Israel’s military chief of staff, Gen. Benny Gantz, came out and said that Iranian leaders are rational actors and that they have no current nuclear weapons program, not having decided to go for warheads.

And that’s that. When the Israeli Army Chief of Staff publicly undercuts the rationale for war, said war is kaput. So that’s all good, right? We can just laugh at the silly Republicans spouting off about launching another unpopular war during an election season.

Not so fast. The truth of the matter is that members of the Israeli security establishment have to deal with the fact that they rely heavily on the Pentagon. Regardless of what Netanyahu may say, an attack on Iran by Israel without the support of the U.S. is nearly impossible to fathom.  The Obama administration has made it clear that support is not forthcoming.

But what happens if Romney wins in November? We might just find ourselves right back in the business of unilateral war in the Middle East.

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