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Dr. Yoram Peri


by Rhonda Spivak, posted Feb 25, 2013


[Editor's note: Yoram Peri will be speaking on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 12:00 - 1:00 pm Convocation Hall-at Wesley 2W16  (Second Floor) the University of Winnipeg during the Second Annual Middle East Week organized by The University of Winnipeg administration.  Peri will be speaking on "Knesset Elections: New Faces, Old Predicaments."   Below is the article I wrote last year about his talk, much of which is still relevant today.]



No Israeli attack on Iran before Madonna concert in May

report and comment by Rhonda Spivak, March 16, 2011


Dr.Yoram Peri, former Senior Political Advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin told a crowd of Jewish community leaders in Winnipeg that while he was not prepared to predict whether Israel under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will launch a military attack on Iran, he was prepared to make one prediction: Any attack, should there be one, will not take place before May 29, when Madonna is scheduled to hold a concert in Israel. "Young people on facebook are asking Bibi not to start a war with Iran."

On a more serious note, Peri, a former Editor-in-chief of the Israeli daily Davar did say that no analyst could ever be sure what the future holds vis-a-vis Israel, and he illustrated this point by telling the story of the 1996 Israeli elections. It is a story which struck a cord with me since I was living in Jerusalem during those elections. Netanyahu faced off against Shimon Peres, who lead the Labour party following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. Israeli media predicted a Peres victory. The Exit polls published on all of the Israeli television channels showed a Peres victory. I remember turning on the television watching anchor Chaim Yavin open the night's coverage "Taiku, Im YiTaron Kal LePeres. ("A tie with a slight advantage for Peres.) An hour or two later all television stations declared Peres the winner based on the exit polls and for several hours political analysts and advisers all explained why and how Peres won the election.The Israeli Foreign Ministry invited guests to go over the results, as Peri recalled. Most of the country went to sleep thinking that Peres had won the election. By
about two in the morning, television anchors began saying that it was possible that the exit polls were wrong. By three a.m. the party in the Peres election hall died down.By about five a.m, Netanyahu's hall was crowded with ecstatic people as the television crews began to predict his victory. Most Israelis awoke stunned at the turn about.
It is a story well worth remembering when it comes to Iran, and Peri certainly made the point by retelling it. I thought of the story again when I read this week in Ma'ariv that the Israeli cabinet is divided over whether Israel ought to launch a strike on its own to prevent Iran from reaching nuclear capability while Israel has the capacity to do so on its own, or to place absolute trust in the Americans to do so at a later time. Ma'ariv reported that Netanyahu and Barak and six others in the Israeli cabinet favour of a pre-emptive strike in the cabinet, and there are six cabinet members opposed --think about how close that is. One person changes their mind and it's a tie.
There clearly is an internal division in Israel over this issue. Peri supports those who say that Israel should not launch a military attack now or in the near future. In a conversation afterward with the Winnipeg Jewish Review, Peri noted the importance of the position of Meir Dagan, former head of the Shin Bet who has come out publicly indicating that Israel ought not attack Iran. (It is widely expected that Dagan will be entering politics.)
Dagan gave a rare interview to CBS come out against a pre-emptive Israeli strike saying, " The issue of Iran armed with a nuclear capability is not an Israeli problem; it's an international problem," and adding "If I prefer that somebody will do it, I always prefer that Americans will do it." Dagan also said that he worries about a rain of missiles which some estimate could be as many as 50,000, and could start a regional war, and he also has concerns about whether the strike could be effective since there are dozens of sites. To see and read the important interview click here
In his remarks Peri explained that “Israel has the ‘Deep Throat’ bomb ("Don't ask why we call it that") but it can only penetrate only 70-80 feet, whereas that “Americans have a bomb that can penetrate 200 feet he noted. Therefore, Israel alone has less time to launch an attack militarily on Iran--the United States can wait longer, but of course the concern is that if Israel waits until the targeted sites are out of reach of its bombing capability, it puts its fate in the hands of the Americans. (And what if the Americans should change their mind, or if their intelligence isn't good enough to know with absolute certainty when Iran crosses the threshold of having nuclear capability ? )
As Peri noted the "red line" for Israel is when the Iranians will be able to move most parts of their military installations into the uranium enrichment plant built underground in a mountain near the city of Qom. This is why the Israelis were asking U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to give them bunker buster bombs so that they can get to Qom," Perri said. But Panetta has not been committal.
Netanyahu could decide that he will attack Iran militarily by acting alone while Israel is still able to do so, but this would only mean waiting three to four months, and before the November US election (a scenario Obama does not want to happen).
Peri also discussed whether attacking Iran as a preventative attack is a just war.
"Israel's political-military culture has, since the state's founding, defined the meaning of a just war It is only permissible to enter a defensive war, a "war of no choice," when it is clear that all other options for a solution to the crisis have been exhausted."
Peri has written about this issue in detail in a recent article in the Huffington Post, concluding that "An Israeli attack on Iran will not constitute a preemptive strike, but rather a preventative war, which contradicts Israel's notion of a just war. Israel's bombings of nuclear reactors in Iraq (1981) and in Syria (2007) were not full-scale wars but rather highly limited military operations. An operation targeting Iran's nuclear facilities will turn into an all-out war and previous outcomes of preventative wars proved to be more damaging than they were beneficial." To read the full article, click here
Peri stated that he thought it was unlikely that Iran would ever use the bomb if it achieved nuclear capacity, but the problem is that if Iran becomes nuclearized, Israel will lose much of its ability to react when Hezbollah or other Iranian clients launch missiles against it. "If Israel says we'll attack Hezbollah, then the Iranians will say, Don't attack, because if you do you know what we have in our basement."
Iran becoming nuclearized will also set off a chain reaction, where every state in the region would want to go nuclear.

However, in question period, Peri was asked about his assessment that it was unlikely Iran would ever use the bomb if it got one. ("And what if you are wrong in that assessment?"). He acknowledged the validity of the question. The probability of Iran using the bomb" is small, but the possibility exists. Definitely so."

Peri did note that if Iran ever became nuclearized, the Palestinians could be affected also, since they are so close by. (This argument has been recently raised by Russia's Foreign Minister who recently said "I am absolutely convinced that Iran will never decide to do this [attack Israel with nuclear weapons], if only because... a threat to destroy Israel will also destroy Palestine,",7340,L-4205655,00.html

In assessing what Netanyahu will decide to do, Peri also spoke about Netanyahu as a politician.There are two Netanyahus he said, "There is Bibi, whose the son of his [right wing]father," and whose close family members are more right-wing than he . And there is Netanyahu, the "clever, shrewd politician" who is more likely not to take extreme steps, and to moderate his positions.

"So there is a battle between Bibi, and Netanyahu," Peri said, (and then there are all the other people in the Israeli cabinet, he added).

Peri also noted that Netanyahu's father had once said that it was his son Yoni (a pilot who died in the raid on entebbe) who was the stuff Prime Ministers were made of, whereas his son Bibi would make a good Foreign Minister, not a Prime Minister.


Peri, who was born in Jerusalem, also spoke of the uncertainty in the Middle East which "re-enforces Israel's insecurity."The situation in Syria could deteriorate to the point "where there is no cental authority."

The Sinai has become a lawless enclave, which acts like "a rogue state." Peri said the Egyptian military has taken former prisoners in Cairo and stationed them to man the Sinai border, and the situation "can blow up in a dangerous way."

It is also not clear what will happen when the Muslim Brotherhood gets into power in Egypt. It would like a state based on Sh'aria law, and would like to cut ties with Israel. On the other hand, it will have to economically provide for its people, including all of the young Egytians finishing school looking for work. The economic needs of Egypt could make it take more moderate positions, Peri said, which include co-operating with the US and keeping the peace treaty with Israel.



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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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