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An Extraordinary Stable Number

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The issue of how to deal with the threat of Iran manufacturing a nuclear bomb is a matter affecting Israel's very existence and, therefore, a first priority for the leaders of the Jewish state. In deciding Israel's approach to this issue, and in particular, whether Israel has the military capability to eliminate the Iranian program and should do so, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu must not ignore the opposition and arguments of those who have held high positions in the Israeli government before him as well as during his prime ministership.

While both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have made clear in their judgment Israel is still capable of destroying Iran's nuclear bomb facilities and putting them out of commission for a sufficiently long period so as to make such a military operation feasible and worthwhile, there are others in Israel who differ with them. Netanyahu and Barak believe the window of opportunity is closing. On April 28, the Times reported:

The recently retired chief of Israel's internal security agency accused the government of 'misleading the public' about the likely effectiveness of an aerial strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, ratcheting up the criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak from the country's security establishment.

Yuval Diskin, who retired last year as the director of Shin Bet, the Israeli equivalent of the F.B.I., said at a public forum on Friday night that he had 'no faith' in the ability of the current leadership to handle the Iranian nuclear threat.

The Times of May 8, 2011, reported the comments of Meir Dagan, former intelligence chief, head of the Mossad:

Israel's former intelligence chief has said that a strike on Iran's nuclear installations would be 'a stupid idea,' adding that military action might not achieve all of its goals and could lead to a long war.

The intelligence official, Meir Dagan, who retired in early January after eight years as director of the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, made the remarks at a conference here on Friday. His assessment contradicts the policy of the country's political leaders, who have long argued in favor of a credible military option against Iran's nuclear program.

The Times of April 30 quotes former prime minister Ehud Olmert, reporting, "As several recently retired top security officials have done, Mr. Olmert urged Mr. Netanyahu's government not to rush into unilateral military action against Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program."

In addition, the Times reported, "Gabi Ashkenazi, the former chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, and Eliezer Shkedy, the former air force commander, told the conference on Sunday that an international approach to Iran was preferable." That kind of opinion is near universally held in the U.S. by supporters of Israel, to wit, that it would be far better if the U.S. and other countries joined in the military attack on Iran. Israel has previously done what the world nations wouldn't do. For example, in 1981, it destroyed the nuclear bomb facility built by Saddam Hussein in Iraq. With that facility, Hussein would likely have been insulated from any challenges to his forced takeover of Kuwait or other belligerent moves. In September 2007, Israel destroyed a Syrian nuclear bomb facility which Syria cannot now use on its own citizens in the now ongoing civil war or against United Nations forces supporting those citizens if the U.N. decided to invade Syria to attempt to put an end to the carnage.

Foolishly, the audience hearing Olmert -- American Jews -- heckled him, calling him "naïve" and "Neville Chamberlain." That is truly ridiculous on their part. There has to be room for debate on this vital question.

Israel has to be the final arbiter of any decision bearing on its survival. It would obviously be helpful beyond belief if the U.S. joined it in any attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, but even if it is forced to go it alone, that should come as a result of a reasonable consensus of opinion, arrived at by these people and others with expertise on the issue.

The government of Israel should take all reasonable measures to assemble a consensus of Israeli opinion makers in and out of government to support the government in its response to an apocalyptic event threatening Israel's very survival.

The announcement today that the Kadima Party, led by its new leader Shaul Mofaz, had joined the coalition government now led by Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, is wonderful news. Kadima had been the major opposition party and now in the government provides the coalition government with 94 seats in the aggregate in the 120 member Parliament, an extraordinary stable number.

The new broad coalition will address the issue concerning Iran and also allow Netanyahu to eliminate the military exemption now provided to ultra-orthodox male Jews, protected by the Shas party. In addition, it will provide Netanyahu with a greater ability to enter into more flexible peace arrangements with the Palestinian Authority.

As a result of the new coalition, the Prime Minister has called off the elections he had recently scheduled for September.