Last week the New Yorker ran a piece on Israel’s attack on a Syrian facility in 2007, written by the cherubic Israel lobbyist David Makovsky, that some of us interpreted as a justification for an attack on Iran.
Ali Gharib at the Daily Beast jumped all over it on September 10: “The One Where Israel Bombed Syria.” Gharib faulted Makovsky for being too gungho on war plans:
Makovsky tries to draw lessons for Iran from the Syria raid. But it doesn’t pan out the way he might hope…
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, whose government launched the Syria attack, hinted at this to Makovsky. “Each case must be examined separately,” Olmert told him. “The Iraqi case was different from the Syrian case, and the Syrian case is different from the Iranian case.” Like most of Israel’s security chiefs, Olmert opposes an Israeli attack. Makovsky should definitely have listened more closely to him.
I jumped in the next day. Angered that the New Yorker was describing Iranian nuclear activities as a threat to Israel’s “existence” and “a considerable risk to American interests….” and something that would “undermine American credibility” in the world, I wrote:
Why is the New Yorker running this stuff– at a time when Bill Keller of the Times, who was also fooled on Iraq, is saying we can contain Iran.
Well, New Yorker editor David Remnick has defended the piece. On September 12, he wrote an otherwise-excellent article slamming Netanyahu for using American neocons (“lobbyists, who are never willing to disagree with Israel at all”) to push a campaign war agenda with Obama. But in the middle of that piece, he detoured to defend Makovsky’s article:
In a reporting piece published this week in the magazine, David Makovsky adds to what we know about Israel’s solo strike in 2007 on Al Kibar, a facility near the Euphrates that both Israeli and American intelligence agreed was a nuclear installation. Israeli politicians rarely talk openly about the strike, but, when they do, nearly all of them say that what happened in Al Kibar is not at all analogous to the situation now with Iran, which is immeasurably more dangerous. Ehud Olmert, who was Prime Minister at the time and directed the strike on Al Kibar, is among those Israeli politicians who strongly oppose a strike on Iran and who emphasized to Makovsky the essential differences between the situation in 2007 and now.
I don’t know about this; go to the piece and judge for yourself. I read it as a justification for war. The skeptical Olmert quote that Remnick makes so much of is the second to last paragraph of the piece; Makovsky says that Olmert and three other former Israeli officials
are openly opposed to unilateral Israeli action against Iran; he [Olmert] has publicly urged Netanyahu not to pursue that course.
But the next and last paragraph belongs to the hawk Ehud Barak:
“I am well aware of the depth and complexities of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. However, I am convinced beyond any doubt that dealing with that challenge [Iran having nuclear weapons] from the hour of its emergence– if it emerges — will be far more complicated, far more dangerous, and far more costly in human lives and resources.”
I think that Barak quote can fairly be described as the thrust of the piece. In fact, Olmert is quoted earlier on in hawkish terms: “Israel cannot tolerate an enemy with nuclear power. We did not tolerate it in the past, whether that was Iraq or Syria, and we cannot tolerate it in Iran.” But check it out for yourself…