Israel doesn't have much time to attack Iran

It was in  October 2005 that the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, first said that the "Zionist regime" must "be wiped off the face of the Earth." And it was in April 2006 that he called Israel a "fake regime" that "cannot logically continue to live." 

In the years that have since passed, the man who favors a second Holocaust and denies the occurrence of the first one has repeated these genocidal statements almost daily. These are also the years in which Iran's nuclear weapons program has proceeded exponentially. It is a program that endangers the very existence of the Jewish state.

Thanks to David Ben Gurion, Israel's founding prime minister and first minister of defense, and President Shimon Peres, the last surviving member of the Israeli Old Guard, Israel has a nuclear arsenal. Michael Karpin, the author of "The Bomb in the Basement," calls Israel's nuclear arsenal the "absolute deterrent." But the truth is that Israel can only deter Iran if Iran has the wisdom and the sanity to be deterred.

One often hears the argument that if Iran can live with an Israeli nuclear bomb, why can't Israel live with an Iranian bomb? The answer is that no Israeli leader threatens to eradicate Iran.

Since world public opinion will blame the Israelis for whatever they do preemptively to save themselves, they might as well do what's needed and what works. Israel must, with or without American help, strike first and strike successfully. It must take out not only Iran's nuclear weaponry, but its delivery systems and its command and control centers because it is always better for Jews to be alive and condemned, than dead and eulogized.

An Israeli attack upon Iran will be condemned by the Arabs, the Muslims, the anti-Semites, the anti-Zionists, the anti-Americans, the appeasers, the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, the Pope, the Quakers, and the postmodernist "war-can-never-be-an-option-in-the-twenty-first-century" crowd in academia and elsewhere.

But much of the criticism will be phony. In 1981, when Israel destroyed Saddam Hussein's French-built Osirak reactor, located 18 miles south of Baghdad, the Saudi students in my Middle East politics class at Temple University condemned Israel roundly. But the next day, they all came to my office and asked me to tell my secretary to leave. They then insisted that I close the door. Only when he was assured of complete privacy, did the leader of the group say to me: "Thank God that the Israelis bombed Iraq yesterday. For only God knows when that crazy Iraqi would have used a nuclear bomb against Saudi Arabia, with which he contests the leadership of the Arab world?"

When I asked him why he and his compatriots didn't say so in class, he answered: "We were afraid to. At the least, our fellowships from ARAMCO (the Arab-American Oil Company) would have been revoked. And at the most, we would have been ordered home to be imprisoned or killed." 

At the news conference at which he announced Israel's destruction of the Iraqi reactor, the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin said that ‘'despite all the condemnations which were heaped on Israel for the last 24 hours, Israel has nothing to apologize for. In simple logic, we decided to act now, before it is too late. We shall defend our people with all the means at our disposal." He added that "Israel will not tolerate any nuclear weapons in the region." 

Does Israel's present prime minister have the guts to emulate Menachem Begin, and to emulate him right now? Does the Israel Defense Force have the skill to do to Iran today what it did to Iraq a quarter of a century ago? Is Israel willing to use tactical nuclear weapons if it concludes that conventional weapons won't do the job? And does Israel realize that if Democratic Sen. Barak Obama wins the American presidency next month, it may never have the chance to take out its mortal foe?

There are uncertainties. But one thing is certain, however: Neither Israel's friends, nor my former Saudi students, nor Israel's other foes will ever publicly thank it for taking out the Mad Mullahs of Teheran.

Edward Bernard Glick is a professor emeritus of political science at Temple University and the author of "Between Israel and Death."