Meir Dagan and Ephraim Halevy – Against a strike on Iran
The severity of Iran’s scare tactics (calling Israel a “one-bomb state” – meaning it would only take one nuclear bomb to destroy Israel) would make it seem logical that Israeli leaders would support a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. However, the views of the Israeli leadership are complex and far from unanimous.
There are quite a few Israeli leaders who are not in favor of a first strike on Iran. Ex-Mossad (Israeli CIA) Chiefs Meir Dagan and Ephraim Halevy warn that a strike on Iran could have devastating effects for the region. They believe that Iran’s nuclear capabilities are still far from posing an existential threat to Israel, and point out that an attack on Iran would affect the entire region for a hundred years, as it would likely stir up retaliation from terrorist cells in Israel’s neighboring countries.
Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman – For a strike on Iran
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking at the Knesset after the 2012 AIPAC conference in Washington, said that he is committed to Israel’s security and hinted that he would launch an attack on Iran even without American approval, stating, “We have the right and obligation to be responsible for our fate. Israel has never left its fate to others, not even in the hands of its best friends.”
He prefers for Iran to abandon its nuclear program peacefully, but he does have an obligation, as the leader of Israel, to maintain the country’s ability to defend itself: “The Jewish state will not allow those who seek our destruction the means to achieve that goal. A nuclear-armed Iran must be stopped.” Netanyahu argues that the Iranian threat is real and imminent, and that there is only one effective way to stop it and prevent a “second holocaust.”
Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister of Israel, has also warned that a nuclear Iran would destabilize the region and become a global threat. Lieberman, who is known to be fiery and often not “politically correct,” has threatened to go to Iran and take care of the nuclear facilities himself. Many Israelis joke that he would only escalate the conflict by doing so.
Recent polls show that the Israeli public supports a United States strike on Iran, but is wary of sending the Israeli Defense Forces in alone without U.S. backing. Israelis realize that Iran’s claims to possess missiles that can easily hit any part of Israel are very present dangers.
Iran’s Religious Leader: After the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Iran’s monarchy was overthrown, and the country became a unique Islamic Republic, with religious leaders in all positions of power. The current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has immense influence in both public and private spheres. He is even more powerful than the President of Iran (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) and appoints people to many key posts in the military, civil government and judicial sectors. Khamenei is the one who has called Israel a “one-bomb state.”
Iran’s Political Leader: The Iranian President is elected, but remains subordinate to the appointed Supreme Leader. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad oversees economic policy management on national affairs and deals with international agreements. The President cannot hold office for more than two consecutive terms of four years (he was re-elected in 2009). The Iranian political system mixes elements of democracy with unelected religious leadership.
Iran’s Military Leader: The flagship force of the Iranian military is the Revolutionary Guard, which is run in conjunction with the Iranian Armed Forces. The Revolutionary Guard was set up in the wake of the Islamic Revolution to protect the new political leaders and uphold the Islamic spirit of the revolution. Since 2002, Major General Seyed Firouzabadi has been the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, which boasts a standing army of three million. Ahmad Vahidi is the Minister of Defense and former head of the Revolutionary Guard. Most high-ranking military positions are appointed by the Supreme Religious Leader.