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Ronen Bergman Photo: Dor Malka
Ronen Bergman Photo: Dor Malka

The decisive factor

Shoah memory will prompt Israel to strike Iran should all else fail

Ronen Bergman
Published: 02.24.10, 11:09 / Israel Opinion

A “top secret” document relates how the CIA’s representative in Israel was urgently summoned for a secret meeting at the Mossad director’s home. The Mossad chief will say in retrospect that “it was the most difficult meeting I ever had to hold with a representative of a foreign intelligence service.”


The Mossad chief opened by saying: We have reached a turning point that is more important for you than for us…we are facing a grave situation and I believe we reached this state because we haven’t acted thus far…personally, I am sorry that we did not respond immediately. We may have violated some rules, yet the outcome would be positive for you. We should have hit before the buildup.


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The CIA man responded: That would have prompted both Russia and the United States to come out against you.


Mossad chief: After the UN inspectors were kicked out we entered a new phase. You need to know that this is your problem and not ours.


CIA man: Give us a good reason to stand by you. For example, if they fire at you.


Mossad chief: That’s not the point.


CIA man: If you attack, the US will deploy forces to defend the attacked state.


This meeting may be held next week, in the wake of information recently received by Israel regarding the major progress in Iran’s nuclear project. However, the meeting described above was in fact held 43 years ago between Mossad Chief Meir Amit and the CIA’s Israel representative John Hadden. Ultimately, the Mossad director headed to the US and received what he perceived as a green light to embark on the offensive that later became known as the Six-Day War.


The question of the green light which the US gives or doesn’t give Israel has been at the top of Israeli governments’ agenda ever since then in respect to several events. It would be reasonable to assume that the green light will not be given this time around.


So will Israel strike? Intelligence and government officials in most countries believe that Israel will not be striking. Some believe that should Prime Minister Netanyahu toy with the idea, such strike could be averted by exerting massive pressure on Israel.


Never again

Yet the European assumptions are fundamentally flawed and reflect deep lack of understanding of the collective Israeli psyche and Israel’s decision-making process.


It’s easy to come up with weighty arguments against a strike. The issue of damaging Israel-US ties is not the only one. In operational terms, this would be a highly complex strike (hidden sites, when even the known ones located underground and protected by missiles, the possibility of pilots being taken captive, etc.)


Moreover, even a successful bombing will not erase the knowledge stored in the minds of the nuclear project’s engineers, who operate in a country with a highly developed technological infrastructure. And we haven’t even mentioned the Iranian response, European fury, and the possibility of our ties with Russia and China being severed.


All of the above are serious considerations, yet in my view they will take the second, third, and fourth spot in Netanyahu’s priority list. This would be true for any other Israeli prime minister. The first and decisive factor will be Never Again. Never again will the Jewish people sustain another Holocaust.


One cannot understand Israelis and Israeliness without understanding the extent to which the Shoah’s memory beats in the hearts and minds of every person in this country, not as distant history, but rather as something that could happen again tomorrow.


In the last interview he submitted to in his life (and one which I had the honor to hold,) physicist Professor Yuval Ne’eman, among Israel’s top scientists and a partner in its nuclear project, recalled a conversation he had with David Ben-Gurion. During the meeting, the prime minister told Ne’eman that his most terrible nightmare is that he brought the survivors of the Holocaust from Europe to Israel only for them to sustain a second Shoah here.


Hence, the factor that will tilt the balance is the same one that prompted Prime Minister Begin to bomb the Iraqi reactor, and the same one that prompted the bombing of the Syrian reactor. This consideration is about not letting a state that calls for Israel’s extermination to acquire the means to do so. Should Israel receive information that Iran is close enough, too close, to a nuclear bomb, and should all efforts to thwart this prospect fail, PM Netanyahu – but also any other Israeli prime minister – will be taking one decision only.


The way to prevent the bombing is not through pressure on Israel. It won’t make a difference. Rather, the only way is to impose effective sanctions on Iran, so that Tehran realizes that it is precisely the continuation of the nuclear project that threatens the regime’s stability and very existence.


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