December 21, 2008
The most important decision the next government of Israel will have to make is how to distribute resources intended for use against the Iranian nuclear threat, senior defense officials involved in decision-making have told Haaretz. The new government will have to decide whether to invest in developing measures to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities or developing means of defense and deterrance if Iran does attain nuclear power.
The budget will decide whether Israel will seriously consider a military option against Iran. A decision focusing on defense and deterrance will mean that Israel has given up on attacking Iran. The dilemma becomes more serious in the context of economic recession, which limits the government’s ability to expand the defense budget.
Those who support deterrance believe there is no substitute for the military option, and costly resources should not be wasted on a plan that will never be implemented. They also say that, at most, Israel could bring about a delay of a few years in the Iranian nuclear project, which does not justify the risk of complications in the action or a wider regional conflict. They prefer investing in a number of long-term projects that will increase Israel’s ability to defend itself against the nuclear threat.
Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert objected to this approach. His position was that if Israel can thwart the Iranian threat, its present deterrent capability and resources should not be wasted on redundant deterrent capabilities. As far as is known, Olmert has yet to approve the continued development of a number of projects.
Those who are for the “attack option” say there is great value in delaying the development of Iranian nuclear capabilities by two to four years by means of an Israeli attack. Optimally, they say such an action could also undermine the regime in Tehran, or at least lead to international support against Iranian nuclearization.