Sunday, January 22, 2006

Israel Discussing Iran

The Herzliya Conference has emerged as the key event on the Israeli scene when it comes to discussing not the least foreign and security issues.

There isn't really anyone of significance on the Israeli scene that does not ascend the stairs of the Daniel Hotel during the conference days.

Yesterday and today it was really the Iranian situation that was at the hearth of the discussion. And it wasn't too hard to see the nuances that are there in the discussion.

Defence Minister Mofaz yesterday evening was in as high gear as you can ask for, talking about a nuclear-armed Iran as an "existential threat" to Israel that simply could not be accepted. Although he did not say so explicitly, he left the distinct impression that everything was rather imminent.

Today, the Chief of Staff of the Israel Defence Force Halutz clearly had a somewhat different view of the issue, particularly as concerns the urgency of it.

Describing 2006, he did not list the Iran issue as one of the issues facing the IDF, but rather stressed a number of other ones, notably those of local/Palestinian, global/Al Qaeda and regional/Hezbollah terrorism, and was noticeable worried by what could happen on the West Bank and Gaza in the wake of the elections.

But while certainly sharing the broad assessment on the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran, it was obvious that he saw the issue in a somewhat longer time perspective.

In Israel, the military is effectively commanded by the government, and notably by the Prime Minister, as the title Chief of Staff for the top person in the IDF indicates.

But it's still interesting to note that it seems as if the IDF assessment would give further diplomacy as well as political and economic action somewhat more time than what some political words coming out of here sometimes indicates.

Haaretz - English