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photo by Rhonda Spivak


Rhonda Spivak , posted March 19, 2013


[Editor's note: I  wrote this article four years ago, but am reprinting it now since, on the whole, it is still timely]

WINNIPEG — Retired Israeli ambassador to the United States, Yoram Ettinger, believes that Israel ought to strike Iran militarily “not in a matter of months but hopefully in the next few days.”

In an interview following his keynote address in Winnipeg on April 13, at a Passover luncheon sponsored by the Canadian Friends of Hebrew University, Ettinger said: “Pre-emption is essential. There are no non-military solutions that will stop Iran from going nuclear.”

Ettinger, who served from 1989 to ’92 as minister of congressional affairs at Israel’s Embassy in Washington, added that “every day Israel waits [to attack Iran] makes it more difficult to do.”

Israel should not “delude itself” into thinking that the notion of retaliation would convince a nuclear Iran not to attack Israel militarily, he said. “Israel does not have an option of retaliation… If Iran goes nuclear, the mere threat of an attack on Israel will be enough to take the state down.

“The economy would slow down, foreign investment would slow down, aliyah would slow down, people in Israel would want to leave the country, and this would doom the Jewish state into gradual extinction.”

He said the concept that Israel’s option of retaliation would deter Iran, “ignores the reality that in 1980 to 1986, Iran proved itself willing to sacrifice two million of its people, including one million children, in its six-year war with Iraq.”

He added: “Whatever the costs of an operation [in terms of human life or, political, military or economic consequences] would be dwarfed by the costs of Iran dropping a nuclear bomb on Israel.”

Ettinger said that Israel has shown before that it will take action, notwithstanding world public opinion, when it has felt it had to.

“In 1981, [then-prime minister] Menachem Begin made the decision to destroy Iraq’s nuclear reactor, in defiance of the U.S.’s threat to excommunicate him, in defiance of what the Europeans and the world wanted, in defiance of what the Mossad and military intelligence advised him… He did it even though his minister of defence Ezer Weitzman was against it, and though [then-Labor party leader] Shimon Peres opposed it and leaked it to the press… he did it for Israel’s long term interests,” Ettinger said

Ettinger, a former director of the Government Press Office in Jerusalem from 1988 to ’89, said he believes that the “global atmosphere [against a military strike] is less problematic today than in 1981,” adding that “1981 was before 9/11, before the terror attacks in London and Spain, before the war in Afghanistan.”

When asked if he thought Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would decide to strike Iran militarily, he replied: “I don’t know,” adding that he hoped that Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak would make the decision to do so.

He said he hoped that the reason Barak decided to join Netanyahu’s government was that the two both understood that there ought to be a military strike on Iran.

“The question is, ‘Are we headed by politicians or statesmen [such as Begin] who are willing to sacrifice short-term inconvenience for long-term interests?’” he said.

Ettinger said he voted for Likud in the recent election, not because he liked Netanyahu but to try to help more people at the bottom of Likud get into the Knesset, “because the bottom of Likud has better people than the top,” he added.

Since retiring, Ettinger has been a consultant to Israeli cabinet members and legislators, and to the Knesset foreign affairs and defence committee on U.S.-Israel bilateral projects, U.S. policy and Mideast politics.

When asked why he didn’t vote for Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the Yisrael Beitenu party and now Israel’s foreign minister, Ettinger said: “Because he has said he’s committed to the ‘road map’ [peace plan], which will lead to a two-state solution.” Ettinger said he doesn’t believe in a two-state solution.


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.