Is Israel about to attack Iran?

Alexandra Della Rocchetta

Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers entering the Chamber of the Holocaust outside the walls of the Old City, Jerusalem; July 2010.

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  • The Israelis won’t hit Iran quite yet, because guesses about the consequences are just that @dpletka

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  • Is Israel about to attack Iran? The only thing that's certain is that they feel isolated @dpletka

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  • While many are talking at #Israel, they appear to be talking to no one

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The Washington Post’s David Ignatius is regurgitating—er, reporting—that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is fretting Israel is going to attack Iran in “April, May or June.” There’s some speculation that’s why Israel canceled the 12th joint Austere Challenge military exercise with the United States. That might coincide with the Israeli attack. I’m writing this post from Israel at the end of the annual Herzliya Conference, and suffice it to say, no one hinted an attack was in the cards. Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon did say Iran was working on a missile that could hit the United States, and added that all Iran’s nuclear sites are vulnerable. Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned time was running out. But then again, why suggest otherwise?

Israel has managed to keep remarkable operational security about its efforts to derail regional nuclear programs. No one has hinted with any authority that the Israelis are knocking off Iranian scientists; Israel still hasn’t confirmed it was behind the attack on Syria’s program at al Kibar. But doubtless these suspicions are what’s behind the up tempo visits between Washington and Jerusalem: the Mossad chief is in the United States this week, Dempsey was here last week, and Panetta is blabbing with more than usual logorrhea. Is this all a psychological effort to get the Iranians to the table? An effort to force the Obama administration to focus? Dunno.

I’m still betting the Israelis won’t hit Iran quite yet, because guesses about the consequences are just that. Nor is it entirely clear to me that any strike really solves the problem. And the rumors don’t jibe well with other rumors that Netanyahu plans to call elections this summer, cynics notwithstanding.

Still, who the hell knows. The one thing I can say with certainty is that Israel feels very isolated. The Arab Spring elicits little interest, negative or positive. Iran’s soft underbelly, Syria, might as well be in the Arctic Circle for all Israelis in official circles appear to care. But I wonder, do the Israelis understand they have only one bite at the apple? Do they understand that there is a chance that much of the world will stand with them soon, but not yet? Probably not, because while many are talking at them, they appear to be talking to no one.

Danielle Pletka is vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at AEI

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