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Iran, Livni And The Price Of Political Stability

On Sunday, Israeli military intelligence commanders sounded the alarm bells on Iran. Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, Brigadier General Yossi Baidatz, who commands the assessment division of the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate, said that Iran is “sprinting towards a nuclear bomb.”


Baidatz explained that the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency’s handling of Iran’s nuclear program “is not bringing results.” He further warned that the international community’s efforts to isolate Iran and place sanctions on it are failing.


Baidatz warned the Kadima-Labor-Shas government that, based on what the IAEA has already discovered, it’s clear Iran currently possesses a third of the quantity of enriched uranium necessary to make an atomic bomb. What he did not note is that Iran has multiple nuclear installations that it has not disclosed to the IAEA. Moreover, now that Iran has gotten a handle on the uranium enrichment process, it will not take the ayatollahs nearly as long to enrich the last two-thirds of the uranium needed for a bomb as it took them to enrich the first third.


From Baidatz’s briefing, and from what we already have learned about the international community’s failure to unify around the need to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, it’s apparent that the only way to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power is to bomb its nuclear installations. Only a military strike can prevent Iran from getting the bomb. And the only countries that can possibly be expected to perform such a service to humanity are Israel and the U.S.


Unfortunately, it is fairly clear today that President Bush, in his waning months in the Oval Office, will take not military action against Iran. Since Bush in May 2007gave Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice full control over U.S. policy toward Iran, Rice has made appeasing Tehran rather than confronting it the goal of American policy. It is all but impossible to foresee this policy changing – despite its self-evident failure – before Bush leaves office in January.


That leaves Israel. But Israel has no coherent government at the moment. Sunday evening Prime Minister Ehud Olmert officially submitted his resignation to President Shimon Peres. Olmert now heads a transition government that will remain in power either until Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni forms a government or until elections are held and the winners form a government.


The central question, then, is what serves Israel’s interests better: a coalition led by Livni that spares Israel months of political instability, or months of political instability ahead of general elections that will bring to power a new government with a fresh mandate from the Israeli public?


Livni, her allies in Kadima, many Labor Party members, and the non-Zionist Meretz and Shas parties claim that the best thing for Israel is political stability and the worst is political instability. They argue that chances for peace with the Palestinians and Syria may slip away if there is no continuity in government. They also say that in light of “the great threats” (meaning Iran) that Israel faces, now is no time for political distractions like elections.


Opposing Livni and her allies is Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who argues that Israel needs elections now despite the instability that such elections would necessarily entail. Netanyahu points out that Livni — who was elected last week by less than 20,000 Kadima voters to replace Olmert as Kadima’s leader in a primary election riddled by accusations of vote fraud whose results are now being contested in the courts – has no legitimate claim to the premiership. She represents no one, was elected by no one, and may not even be the legitimate leader of Kadima.


Beyond that, Netanyahu claims, Livni’s demonstrated incompetence in the foreign ministry makes her unfit to lead Israel in a dangerous time. Moreover, Netanyahu and his allies argue that there is no chance whatsoever of making peace with either the Palestinians or the Syrians today and the government’s embrace of the PLO and Syrian dictator and Iranian proxy Bashar Assad harms Israel’s national security.


Sitting on the fence waiting to see who offers them the best deal are Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz and his supporters in Kadima. Rather than accept Livni’s authority after losing the primary to her by a mere 431 votes. Mofaz announced he was taking a break from politics. Mofaz’s supporters allege that Livni used fraud to win her narrow victory and have contested the results. These Kadima members could leave the party and rejoin Likud in exchange for safe seats on Likud’s Knesset list.


Also sitting on the fence is Labor Party Chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Barak sees no advantage to accepting Livni’s authority. Doing so will simply increase her chances of defeating him in general elections. Moreover, Livni’s dubious electioneering maneuvers against Mofaz have tarnished her image as the Mrs. Clean of Israeli politics and likely harmed her prospects in general elections if she fails to form a coalition and is forced to stand for election. On the other hand, Barak’s fellow Labor Party members and cabinet ministers wish to join forces with Livni to prevent elections.


It is impossible to foretell how this drama will unfold. But it can only be hoped that Netanyahu gets his wish and elections are called. Since Olmert, Livni and then-defense minister Amir Peretz led Israel to its first military defeat in the war with Hizbullah two years ago, Kadima and Labor have continuously claimed that in spite of their failures, what Israel needs most is political stability and so they must not be forced to seek a mandate from the public for their continuation in office. And with the support of their backbenchers in the Knesset, they have over and over again blocked the public’s right to choose.


But far from securing Israel, the “stability” they have provided has simply moved the country from failure to failure. Their failure in the war with Iran’s Lebanese proxy army was followed by their failure to prevent Hamas – Iran’s Palestinian proxy – from taking over Gaza. They’ve also failed to stop Iran from arming Hamas to the teeth and so transforming Gaza into the new Lebanon. And they failed to prevent Iran’s postwar takeover of Lebanon through Hizbullah this past May.


Rather than confront Iran’s proxies, they have compounded the dangers by legitimizing Iran’s Syrian proxy by initiating negotiations the surrender of the Golan Heights with Iran’s man in Damascus, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. And they compounded the dangers of Hamas’s takeover of Gaza by negotiating the surrender of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria with Fatah, and so showed Iran and its proxies that no matter what they do to Israel, Israel will continue to cough up land to them.


As for Iran itself, Olmert, Livni and their colleagues have failed to garner any significant international support for confronting Tehran. Indeed, it is they who have overseen Israel’s relations with the U.S. as Washington has effectively abandoned the cause of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.


This is not the team Israel needs to lead it. And though it’s true Israel will go through a period of increased volatility as its neighbors take advantage of the power vacuum in Jerusalem, that mustn’t deter it from moving toward elections. As Iran sprints toward a nuclear bomb, the only way Israel can stop the mullahs from securing the means to destroy the Jewish state is by electing leaders who will have the courage to attack Iran.


Caroline Glick is deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post. Her Jewish Press-exclusive column appears the last week of each month. Her new book, “The Shackled Warrior: Israel and the Global Jihad,” is available at Amazon.com.

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