By ISRAEL HAYOM—
Israeli Ambassador to U.S. Michael Oren tells Israel Hayom that if Israel attacks Iran, the Jewish state will receive widespread support from ordinary Americans and Congress, while President Barack Obama “will continue to recognize our right to defend ourselves on our own” • Meanwhile, former Israel Air Force head says U.S. military chief doesn’t “totally know what the Israeli forces are capable of. The Americans don’t know everything about us.”
Shlomo Cesana, Yoni Hirsch and Israel Hayom Staff
“There is no crisis with the United States,” Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren told Israel Hayom on Saturday, referring to the reportedly widening gap between Washington and Jerusalem’s positions regarding the necessity and timing of possible military action against Iran’s nuclear program.
While Israeli officials say the threshold for military action against Iran is the point just before Iran becomes a nuclear power — namely, the stage at which Iran becomes capable of assembling a bomb — the Americans believe that the Iranians must be stopped only at the point in which they decide to actually build the bomb. In other words, the U.S. views the threshold as the point in which Iran has already attained the capability and begins constructing a nuclear warhead.
Oren, who arrived for a visit this weekend, said he had not felt that the U.S. administration was pressuring Israel to refrain from acting against Iran’s nuclear weapons project.
“The Americans hear the threats made by Iran’s leaders, who want to destroy Israel. It is clear to me that the Americans are asking themselves, ‘What would we do in their place?'” he said. “If Israel ultimately decides to take action against Iran, we will receive extremely widespread support from the American people and Congress, and President Obama will continue to recognize our right to defend ourselves on our own. It won’t create a rift with the United States.”
A Reuters/Ipsos Public Affairs poll from March 11 found that 62 percent of Americans would support Israel’s taking military action against Iran if there was evidence that Iran was building a nuclear weapon, while 30% would oppose Israeli military action against Iran, even if there was evidence that Iran was building a nuclear weapon.
However, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll from the same time, only 42% of Americans would support Israel’s bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities, and 51% would oppose this.
Oren is convinced that in any case the U.S. will not break its alliance with Israel.
“The American Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, said they would stand by Israel if it is attacked with missiles,” he said.
Oren added that “the upcoming U.S. elections aren’t a factor when considering the Iranian issue.”
According to Oren, the only question is “the responsibility for the security of Israel, which lies with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the government. It is a responsibility that no sovereign country would cast on another country, even if that country is its best friend in the world, like the U.S. is to Israel.”
Meanwhile, former Military Intelligence head Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin published an article in The Washington Post on Saturday (“Five steps Obama can take to avert a strike on Iran”) in which he stated that the seemingly widening gap between Israel and the U.S. on the Iranian nuclear weapons issue could be bridged.
“A long-standing principle of Israeli defense doctrine is that it will never ask the United States to fight for it,” Yadlin wrote.
“Only by framing a nuclear-armed Iran as an impermissible threat to the national interests of the United States and its allies in the Persian Gulf can President Obama bridge this gap between Israeli creed and need.
“A gesture directly from Obama could do it. The U.S. president should visit Israel and tell its leadership — and, more important, its people — that preventing a nuclear Iran is a U.S. interest, and if we have to resort to military action, we will. This message, delivered by the president of the United States to the Israeli Knesset, would be far more effective than U.S. officials’ attempts to convey the same sentiment behind closed doors.”
Former Israel Air Force Chief Maj. Gen. (ret.) Herzl Bodinger told Channel 1 over the weekend that Israel should have attacked Iran’s nuclear facilities already last decade. Bodinger commanded the Israel Air Force from January 1992 to July 1996, and today is a member of the International Board of Governors of the Ariel University Center of Samaria.
“If you ask me, I think we should have bombed the installations in 2005, when there was only one site, and then we wouldn’t be faced with all these questions,” Bodinger said.
“I am almost certain that the world won’t be able to prevent Iran’s nuclear militarization through sanctions, and when they have a bomb we will be in a completely different situation … We are very appreciative of American help and their support, but at the end of the day you stand by yourself, with your own fate. If we attack, missiles will fall here, but they will also fall here if the Americans attack.”
Asked whether he thought Israel could attack Iran on its own, Bodinger replied: “The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said this week that in his opinion Israel will not be able to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations, but I think he isn’t totally in the know about what the Israeli forces are capable of. The Americans don’t know everything about us.”
Meanwhile, former IDF Deputy Chief of General Staff Maj. Gen. Dan Harel touched on the increasing amount of chatter on the Iranian issue, telling Radio Israel, “The public debate on the matter has boiled over to areas that cause harm, and this is very worrisome for me. The newspapers are detailing the weak spots in our home front as well as our operational capabilities.”
Harel added: “Iran represents, for us, a clear and very present danger. I think the State of Israel needs to trust itself when approaching this threat. But the debate, that let’s say in principle has a place, boiled over a long time ago into many other aspects and areas that causes direct and real damage to our security.”