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7 Aug, 2012

Rabbi Michael Lerner: Will Israel Start a War With Iran Before U.S. Elections?

By Rabbi Michael Lerner. www.tikkun.org

As you may know, Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives (www.spiritualprogressives.org) bought a full page ad in the New York Times signed by 3,000 Americans urging both Israel and the US to use the deterrence strategy we used against Stalin’s nuclear-armed Russia during the Cold War to head off nuclear war, namely to assure Iran that if it ever uses its nuclear capacity it would face massive nuclear retaliation.

Editor’s Note: This dispatch, which reflects the views of Travel Impact Newswire almost entirely, is part of a continuing effort to send an early warning to the travel & tourism industry about yet another looming disaster. As usual, our industry leaders, many of them paid by tax and/or membership money, maintain the “ostrich response”. If the industry goes into a post-conflict tailspin, and jobs begin to get axed, they will not be able to evade accountability.

Let Iran have its nukes, just as Israel has its nukes, and India, Pakistan, North Korea, and China have theirs — and let’s instead adopt a strategy of generosity (including a Global Marshall Plan — www.tikkun.org/GMP) to end the hostilities, something that might actually be possible were Israel to end the Occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza and in a spirit of open-hearted generosity acknowledge its partial (not total) responsibility for the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem and follow the detailed path put forward in my new book Embracing Israel/Palestine (North Atlantic Books, 2012) and the U.S. acknowledge its mistake in supporting the Shah of Iran’s dictatorship and repressive regime toward Muslims.

Their current leadership in Iran is awful and we hope it is overthrown by its own people, but they are not self-destructive: they want an Islamic society and understand that it would be bombed into smithereens should it ever start a nuclear war. So Israel and the US should take a peace-and-generosity oriented strategy which will undermine the Iranian regime’s hold on its own people, whereas a military assault will force all Iranians to back its repressive government in the name of national pride and solidarity.

Unfortunately, both Israel and the US are preparing for a first strike against Iran, the U.S. reluctantly, because Obama doesn’t really want a war, Israel enthusiastically–except for a majority of its own people who don’t really want a war either but are willing to trust Netanyahu and Israel’s military (though its intelligence community has been doing all it could to warn their fellow Israelis that the path of war is insane). Initiating a war because of a fear that the other side might get the same weapons you hold is immoral, a violation of international law, and stupid as well.

That’s why I pray everyday that Israel and the U.S. will switch from the strategy of domination to the strategy of generosity to handle “the Iran problem.” If you agree, please JOIN the Network of Spiritual Progressives and help us promote the path of peace and generosity at a time when everyone from Obama to Netanyahu talk as if the big powers have the right to do whatever they want as long as they are militarily more powerful–a vision of the world which will come back to haunt us and our children in decades to come when it is China that is the biggest power!

The only path to world peace is a path of peace and non-violence. But Netanyahu is seeking military superiority, not peace, and he knows that if he starts a war before the elections, President Obama may feel that he must show that he is “tough” and hence not vulnerable to Republicans’ traditional attempts to portray the Democrats as weak on defense of this country, so that electoral concern may drag the US into the war as well (and of course Netanyahu realizes that after the election he has considerably less leverage unless Romney wins..

P.S. We have to thank the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz for the following three articles which, when read together, give you some idea of how completely irrational the government of Israel under Benjamin Netanyahu, cheered on by Mitt Romney and American Jewish conservatives, has become. The first is by David Grossman, Israel’s preeminent writer whose son was killed in another irrational war–Israel’s attack on Lebanon in 2007. If you have never read his masterpiece “See Under: Love” you are in for an amazing experience–brilliant and profound, if you find and read it soon.

As Netanyahu pushes Israel closer to war with Iran, Israelis cannot keep silent

Why aren’t ministers and defense officials standing up right now, when it is still possible, and saying: We will not be a party to this megalomaniacal vision, to this messianic-catastrophic worldview?

By David Grossman | Aug.03, 2012

Israeli official says Netanyahu’s top ministers haven’t discussed Iran in months

By Reuters and Haaretz Aug.03, 2012

Ex-Mossad chief said what should be clear to everyone – Israel has never been so close to attacking Iran

By Anshel Pfeffer | Aug.03, 2012

Israeli strike would only delay Iran’s nuclear program by two years

By Amos Harel | Aug.03, 2012

Netanyahu: If Israel attacks Iran, I will take responsibility for the consequences

By Barak Ravid | Aug.03, 2012

Here’s a possible scenario: Israel attacks Iran despite the strenuous opposition of President Barack Obama, who is practically pleading that Israel leave the work to the United States. Why? Because Benjamin Netanyahu has a historical mind-set and a historical outlook under which, basically, Israel is “the eternal nation” and the United States, with all due respect, is just the Assyria or the Babylonia, the Greece or the Rome, of our age. Meaning: We are everlasting, we are an eternal people, and they, despite all their strength and power, are merely temporary and ephemeral.

They have narrow and immediate political and economic concerns: They are worried about the impact an attack will have on oil prices and the election, while we exist, always, in the realm of Eternal Israel. We carry within us a historical memory dotted with flashes of miracles and triumphant salvations that transcend logic and reality. Their president is a bleeding heart who believes that his enemies use the same rational thinking that he does, while we have spent the last 4,000 years in a bitter struggle with the darkest Stygian forces in history and the darkest human impulses, and know full well what is required to survive in these twilight zones.

Some would surely find this portrayal anxiety-inducing, but the prime minister would probably consider it a fitting description; he would even take it as a bit of a compliment. As things stand, the prime minister enjoys the support of a broad coalition and is not pestered by a solid opposition. In a sense, he is functioning as an autocrat – King Bibi, as Time Magazine called him. Meaning that when fateful decisions have to be made, the Israeli people’s future and destiny will be subject, above all, to the judgment of Netanyahu’s extreme, rigid and unbending worldview.

In other words, even the many Israelis from all over the political map who do not want Israel to attack Iran – along with certain security chiefs – are now trapped, in the most fateful way, within the prime minister’s hermetic worldview.

Yet Netanyahu has loyal partners in the government, people who are meant to share in the outlook and decision-making. Their advantage over the average citizen supposedly lies in their “superior knowledge,” as they have been presented with “all the facts and considerations.” True, this is how a democratic government works, but Israelis have learned from hard experience that their leaders are not immune to serious mistakes, and that, like anyone else – and perhaps even a drop more – they are vulnerable to self-deception and getting carried away with hawkish euphoria.

Therefore, since such a fateful matter is at stake, we are entitled and obliged to ask again and again, or at least to demand that the decision-makers ask themselves, and answer honestly: Do the “knowledgeable” ones really know all they need to know? Is anyone really capable of making such a decision? Is anyone really capable of weighing and calculating “all the facts and considerations” entailed in such an act?

Are they absolutely certain they are not overestimating the Israel Defense Forces’ ability to solve the problem of the Iranian nuclear bomb once and for all, and are they not underestimating the Iranians’ capabilities? Are they absolutely sure that if Israel strikes, the Iranians will not be able to obtain a nuclear bomb, and that if they do get a bomb, they will use it against Israel?

In other words, is their “knowledge” based exclusively on facts, or is it biased and fueled by anxieties, wishful thinking and echoes of past traumas, which the prime minister is the unrivaled expert at building up? And most importantly: Do they fully understand that the decision to attack a superpower like Iran, and in defiance of America at that, could turn out to be the biggest mistake ever by an Israeli government?

Advocates of an attack see a single axis whose ends are labeled “bomb or be bombed,” with a sign hanging overhead: “Forever shall the sword devour you.” Israel’s leaders are so captive to this way of thinking that it seems a heavenly decree, or a law of nature, nearly always sentences Israel, at every dilemma or security crossroads, to choose one path: “Bomb or be bombed” – between attacking and being attacked.

Certainly, an Iran armed with nuclear weapons is a real danger, not just a paranoid figment of the Israeli government’s imagination. But even in the present situation there are other avenues, other possibilities for action or nonaction, and of course there is also the unequivocal American assurance that Iran will not become a nuclear power. But Israel already appears to be affected by familiar, almost mystical, forces beyond its control, forces fed by that same historical mind-set cited above, which almost invariably sees all its anxieties come true and seems drawn like a magnet to existential danger.

Therefore, the question must be asked with greater urgency: Why aren’t ministers and defense officials, people who are serving here and now, not those who have completed their terms, standing up and speaking their minds? These are people who in private express opposition to an attack; who believe that an Israeli attack will only defer Iran’s nuclearization for a very short time. They fear the profound consequences such an attack would have for Israel’s situation, for its very survival. Why aren’t they standing up right now, when it is still possible, and saying: We will not be a party to this megalomaniacal vision, to this messianic-catastrophic worldview?

Is loyalty to the system more important than loyalty to the things they have devoted their lives to – Israel’s security and future? An act that resonates like this would be the most meaningful thing they could do for Israel, for its security and its future.

And what about us, the Israeli people, who are suddenly mute amid the gathering gloom, who clam up in fatalistic resignation with eyes wide shut against what seems to grow more threatening every day? How will we face ourselves and our children when we are asked why we kept silent? Why we didn’t take to the streets in masses to demonstrate against the possibility of another war launched by us? Why we didn’t set up a single symbolic protest tent in front of the Prime Minister’s Residence to warn against the potential disaster heading our way? For, as the poet Bialik said in another context, it is we who will pay the price of the blaze with our blood and marrow.

Another avoidable war

Like its predecessors, the next war is being portrayed as unavoidable. It’s hard to see how it could be more successful than the previous ones. It’s easy to see how it could be the most terrible.

By Gideon Levy | Aug.05, 2012

Israel will attack Iran within a few weeks, according to the former head of Military Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Aharon Ze’evi Farkash. He made this announcement to Israel, Iran and the rest of the world on Channel 2 news Friday night.

We can assume that Farkash, one of the most responsible and restrained of speakers, knows what he’s talking about. He didn’t retire in bitterness and he doesn’t have many personal accounts to settle, as far as is known. He wasn’t shooting from the hip or out of a desire to sabotage the plans.

Of course, he was subject to the hint of a reprimand by the head of our national information agency, television reporter Roni Daniel. But Daniel, too, couldn’t hide the impression Farkash’s remarks made on him. Israel is about to start another avoidable war.

We’ve had four or five avoidable wars − it depends on how and which ones you count − not one of which achieved its desired end. Now Israel is about to embark on another one. Each war was first depicted as an overwhelming success, applauded by nearly everyone. People were even very moved at first. Only after days and then months went by did Israelis wake up from a dream and realize it was a nightmare − another avoidable war.

Like its predecessors, the next war is being portrayed as unavoidable. Israel, which seeks peace and security, has no choice. But like most of Israel’s wars, this one is avoidable. It’s hard to see how it could be more successful than the previous ones. It’s easy to see how it could be the most terrible.

Israel is prepared for this avoidable war, unlike the earlier ones. Operations experts have done their research and come up with the number of Israelis to be killed − 200 to 300 if everything goes as planned, according to the operations department.

This is the defense establishment’s latest update. A few months ago the defense minister put the winning number at 500 Israelis dead. In other words, two people, the prime minister and the defense minister, are about to sentence at least hundreds of Israelis, some reading these words and some not, to death. This macabre news cannot but raise extremely difficult ethical questions, even among those who believe that Israel has no choice.

Populism? Absolutely, and shamelessly so. We’re talking about hundreds of people at least, whose deaths are being foretold by their leaders’ decision. They didn’t volunteer to die; no one asked them or even their representatives what they wanted.

The decision about their approaching deaths was made by people who are protected from all ill ‏(along with their families‏). Not one hair of the decision-makers’ heads will be hurt. This is how it is with avoidable wars; you can’t hold a referendum on them. You can only volunteer others to die.

True, the decision-makers don’t choose who will die. That’s all we need, a questionnaire for leaders: Who shall live and who shall die. Or perhaps a death lottery. But they’ve definitely decided that others, many others, will die. So it’s impossible to avoid a question about the unethical nature of such a war.

Let’s say the results are priceless: Iran collapses, its regime falls, the country is taken over by a friend of Israel, the Iranian Mitt Romney − a pacifist, disarmed Iran. Is there anyone willing to die for this? Even one? Let him stand up. Since no one has, the question remains.

But all this is simply the most desired scenario: “Only” hundreds of dead and an overwhelming victory. There are of course other possibilities, and this no one can deny: The hundreds could become thousands, with thousands more wounded.

And the success could turn out a failure: perhaps a delay in achieving nuclear weapons, or an acceleration. Just an Israeli-Iranian war, or a regional one. Perhaps the Israeli home front will be protected, or perhaps, heaven forbid, it won’t. Then what? Will we form another investigative committee? Or maybe write another editorial against the war? Israel’s sixth avoidable war.

Before attacking Iran, Israel should stop shooting itself in the foot

A future commission of inquiry will find that Israeli leaders failed to stock up on strategic reserves of international support.

By Chemi Shalev, Aug.06, 2012

International support is a strategic component of national security for most countries, and for Israel even more so. Fighting for its existence, isolated in its own neighborhood, confronted by powerful alliances and perennially on the defensive in international forums, for most of its 65 years, Israel has been skirmishing on every front in order to secure every friend it can get.

So you would think that in advance of a possible military attack to neutralize an Iranian threat that they describe as existential, Israeli leaders would be doing their utmost to shore up as much international support as they possibly can. You would assume that Israeli policy-makers know as well as anyone else, or even better, that the most successful military attack won’t stop Iran’s nuclear drive unless it is followed by strong international pressure on the Tehran regime. You would surmise that Israeli leaders know full well that whoever attacks Iran, Israel or the U.S. or both, it is Israel that will be blamed by public opinion everywhere for the fallout and the havoc and the turmoil and the economic mayhem that will be caused.

So you would reckon that while the military commanders are formulating plans and replenishing stockpiles, Israel’s political leaders would be busy gathering international support and accumulating reserves of goodwill in advance of an upcoming campaign. And you would conclude that the enormity of the dangers and the challenges that lay ahead would eclipse any and all other considerations and would forge a single-minded political and diplomatic effort aimed at one thing and one thing only: preparing Israel for what is often described as the most formidable challenge it has faced since the country was born.

Well, you might think all of the above, but you would be wrong.

In fact, it sometimes seems as if Israeli policymakers couldn’t care less. How else can one understand Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s decision to deride the Obama Administration’s efforts against Iran’s nuclear efforts while Mitt Romney stands smiling by his side? Is this really the right time for an Israeli leader to be perceived, as Fred Barnes wrote in the conservative Weekly Standard on Sunday, as “giving every indication that he wants Romney to defeat Obama?”

What rational explanation is there for the fact that Netanyahu and others in the Israeli government have made no effort whatsoever to dispel the widespread notion that they are rooting for a Romney victory, when there is a at least a 50% chance – 72%, according to the New York Times’ widely respected Nate Silver – that it will be Obama who will be called upon, before, during and after November, to stand up in Israel’s defense? And why is it that at a time of such great national peril, Israel has made no effort to blunt the Republican attempt to turn Israel into a “wedge issue” with which to pry Jewish voters away from the Democrats, even though this divisiveness alienates a large part of America’s liberal elites and Democratic voters?

And the same bewilderment holds true for Europe and the settlements. One can support settlements or one can view them as “a cancer that is eating us”, as New Israel Fund President Brian Lurie said in a recent interview – but one cannot simply wish away the criticism and the frustration that Israel’s settlement policies spark in most Western European countries, that are, as Israel itself concedes, a critical lynchpin in any international front against Iran.