Is Netanyahu’s New Adviser in the ‘Attack Iran’ Camp?

It’s hard to know for sure, but he certainly doesn’t keep pleasant company.

Ori Nir, at Americans for Peace Now, has a good analysis of Maj. Gen. Yaakov Amidror, who is apparently Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s new national security adviser. Replacing another ultra-hawk, Uzi Arad, Amidror seems to be a big-time hawk on Palestinian issues. But what about Iran?

In Israel, Noam Sheizaf has been addressing this question with a deft touch — there is a split right now in the Israeli security establishment. Sheizaf long ago exploded Jeffrey Goldberg‘s notion of a “consensus,” but the combination of upheaval both in the region and in Bibi’s cabinet are forcing constant re-evaluation.

I saw Amidror speak in December at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ conference on Iran. The hard-line neocon think tank put the aged and bearded reservist general on its ‘bomb Iran’ panel, moderated by FDD honcho Cliff May. The panel featured Goldberg, the disingenuous Reuel Marc Gerecht, and Ken Pollack, the lone dissenter from the notion that a military strike in Iran could achieve any of its ostensible aims. As you can imagine, the panel was a lot of laughs (literally: the transcript lists 28 breaks for “LAUGHTER”).

At the FDD conference, Amidror’s stance on Iran basically boiled down to this: ‘Attacking Iran is a last resort that we will almost definitely have to use, so we are getting ready.’ Here’s his key comments, with my emphasis:

I believe that attacking Iran is a very bad situation, but there is something worse, that Iran will have a nuclear capability.

But we are not running to attack Iran. We want to postpone it as much as possible because we want to give the world, the Americans, everyone who is ready to help, to stop Iran without using military forces.

So it — it is not just an option. We prepare all of this very thoroughly, investing a lot of it, but we are not running to use it and we hope that someone will find another solution.

If you ask me as an expert for assessment that what I did 25 years, what is my assessment, my assessment is it is almost impossible to stop Iran without military force, but we should not run to use it before we be sure 100 percent and more that there is no other alternative.

It seems that, while Amidror pays lip service to the “last resort” of an attack, he is already gearing up to do it.

Amidror seems to have a ridiculously flawed understanding of the concept of “deterrence.” He thinks the Lebanon War in 2006 was a good example of Israel establishing such a deterrence. But, you know, that’s kind of funny, because deterrence is only a useful concept until force is unleashed — Damocles kept his head, after all. Nonetheless, here’s Amidror:

Deterrence includes two elements: the first is the determination to use your capability and the second is to have this capability. I think it was very important that Israel made the decision to go to war and sustained the war for more than a month, despite extensive Hizballah rocket attacks across northern Israel.

The determination of Israel’s government to respond and to retaliate is a very important factor in restoring deterrence. …As a small country, we cannot allow ourselves the luxury of reacting proportionally. Israel’s military action sent a very important message to the people around us.

I wonder what the Israeli hawks and neocon allies would say if you asked them today: “Why are you so worried about the Muslim Brotherhood?” Don’t they remember Lebanon 2006? (I’m sure that they would answer with something akin to the five-year-version of the Ledeen Doctrine.)

Nir has a primer on Amidror’s politics:

Amidror is associated with the ultra-right national-religions party “The Jewish Home.” In 2008, he headed a commission tasked with composing the party’s list for the general elections. The party, which is dominated by former National Religious Party (NRP) politicians, supports a “greater Israel” ideology and is considered the most authentic political representative of the ideological messianic settlers in the West Bank.

He adds that Amidror’s most recent opinion article is headlined: “Security is Preferable to Peace,” as if one has nothing to do with the other.

All of this is no surprise: Amidror is a such a close ally of the religious settler movement that he spoke at a 2006 event supporting one such settlement, Beit El, and its chief accomplishment: the Arutz Sheva conspiracy website. Also speaking at the event was then-Arutz Sheva personality Alex Traiman, a Beit El resident. Traiman wrote and directed Clarion Fund‘s latest propaganda film, “Iranium,” which aims to raise public support for attacking Iran.

So let’s see: Yaakov Amidror is in bed with the uber-hawks at FDD and with the religious settlers at Clarion who are all pushing hard (in concert) for an attack on Iran, and he thinks that a good deterrence policy is to attack. This does not bode well. I’ll toss this to Sheizaf for his informed thoughts…

Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.