December 10, 2018

Will Israel attack Iran? 5 notes following Netanyhau’s Sde Boker address

“Great statesmen as well as friends of the Jews and of Zionism” warned Ben-Gurion that declaring a Jewish state in 1948 would bring about “grave and difficult battle… He understood full well that the decision carried a heavy price, but he believed not making that decision had a heavier price… We are all here today because Ben-Gurion made the right decision at the right moment”

Prime Minister of Israel Binyamin Netanyahu spoke yesterday at the annual memorial service for Israel’s founding premier David Ben Gurion. It is often an event in which prime ministers make important statements. In 2003, the Sde Boker address (the site of Ben Gurion’s grave) gave the first sign of the coming disengagement from Gaza. And yesterday seemed no different: Netanyahu’s tone, words and choice of topic all pointed at the same direction – a looming decision of historic proportions. For Ben Gurion it was the declaration of Israel as a State. For Netanyahu it is Iran.

Here are some of the things worthy of attention:


When the prime minister says that “I would like to believe that we will always act with responsibility, courage and determination to make the right decisions, that will ensure our future and security” he is really telling Israelis: Don’t believe political rivals and former officials that are trying to push their agenda by claiming that I’m irresponsible. I am responsible, and I will act responsibly (which doesn’t mean that I will do what these former officials want me to do).


“They all told him—the time is not right, not now.” When Netanyahu compares himself to Ben Gurion, when he tells Israelis that Ben Gurion was also under pressure not to declare independence, when he reminds Israelis that Ben Gurion was right to ignore such advice – what he really tells Israelis is this: With all due respect to officials and experts and officers and advisors, I was given your votes because you wanted me to make decisions. The real leader is not the man whose action is the sum of all advice he was getting.


“Everyone told him: This is not the time, not now.” But Ben Gurion acted, and didn’t wait for conditions to be better or for other countries to take care of things.


Ben-Gurion “clearly understood that there would be a high price for his decision, but he believed there would be an even heavier price to pay for not making the decision”. Namely, I know an attack on Iran would not be like walk in the park, I know it’s dangerous, I know it will be tough, I know this means war, maybe a long one. High price is only measured against the alternative price, and Netanyahu was reminding his listeners that the price of inaction can also be very high.


“From within and outside, from inside the Yishuv and all over the world” Ben Gurion was pressured not to take the step of officially declaring Israel as a State, Netanyahu reminded in his speech. The “inside” is clear, it is Meir Dagan and all others campaigning against war with Iran. The “all over the world” is Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Netanyahu doesn’t much care about the “world” in general; he only cares about the response and position of Israel’s greatest ally the USA.