In his monthly column for the Forward, “When Would Israel Attack Iran?”, Yossi Alpher lays out seven conditions that must be fulfilled for Israel to commit to an attack on Iran. Only one — that the regime in Tehran calls for Israel’s destruction — has been met so far. His piece is a largely a summary of Alper’s Q&A on August 16 with the dovish Americans for Peace Now (covered here by Eli). His conclusion as to the likelihood of an Israeli strike on Iran bears repeating: “We are clearly not there yet.”
Alpher’s standing makes his contribution to the debate on attacking Iran noteworthy. A respected security analyst and longtime two-state solution advocate, Alpher served in the IDF as an officer, worked for the Mossad for a dozen years and won the 2008 American Jewish Press Association commentary award for his “Strategic Interest” column in the Forward.
In critiquing Jeffrey Goldberg‘s controversial Atlantic piece, Alpher draws the distinction between what he considers Israel’s strategic concerns and that of those he says have been pushing the idea of an attack into the headlines. He calls out Goldberg and John Bolton by name, then questions their strategic analysis of Iran-Israel tensions:
There is a lot of bad judgment and misinformation, or perhaps disinformation, at work here. At the end of the day, an Israeli attack against Iran is conceivable, but not in the way Goldberg or Bolton imagine.
Alpher goes on to criticize Goldberg from several familiar angles. He points out that Goldberg didn’t seem to address Israeli dissent to Bibi Netanyahu’s claim, as reported by Goldberg himself, that Iran is “a messianic apocalyptic cult.” Last month, Noam Sheizaf echoed Alpher’s take on Goldberg as well.
Many of Alpher’s criticisms were stronger in the Peace Now conversation. For example, Alpher explicitly stated Goldberg’s article was indeed a “tool” for achieving the Israeli “objective”, Goldberg’s interviewees were certainly part of a “public relations campaign” and called his claim otherwise a “naive supposition.”
But in his Forward piece, Alpher collapses his take into a line about the hawkish Israeli perspectives which reveals just what that “objective” might be, and the impact of Goldberg’s analysis: “…Israeli threats to attack Iran sound good, because they could conceivably spur the Obama administration to take preemptive action.”
Coming from Alpher, laid out in a mainstream Jewish publication — that Israel and her witting or unwitting U.S. backers may try to push the U.S. to “action” — is noteworthy and ominous, even amid the softer criticism and restated doubts about an attack.