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An ominous warning: ‘Netanyahu needs a war with Iran. And he needs it soon’

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In a dangerous escalation, Israel last night attacked a military base near Syria’s capital, Damascus, using both warplanes and surface-to-surface missiles. News sources in Syria said the target was an Iranian installation near Al-Kiswa, 7 miles south of the city.

This attack — Israeli officials declined comment — is just the latest ominous sign from Israel that the unholy alliance of Donald Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu and the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, may be planning to greatly expand war in the Mideast, targeting Hezbollah in Lebanon, and its ally and patron, Iran.

The veteran journalist Larry Derfner reports from Israel that “everybody here feels war is coming.” He adds, “There’s so much tough talk from Israel, and the Saudis would love Israel to fight a war for their interests, and the tension is very high — all this is in the news all the time.” Derfner does not believe Hezbollah or Iran would start the conflict, “because they know they’d get crushed.” He explains, “The only one I see starting it is Israel, because Israel is both strong and paranoid.”

Bradley Burston, a respected columnist in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, also could not have been more clear the other day. His opinion piece was entitled, “Netanyahu Needs a War. He Needs It to Be With Iran. And He Needs It Soon.” Burston argues that Netanyahu has several selfish reasons for wanting a conflict:

1) The Israeli political reality is turning against him. “He’s desperate now because he’s losing ground fast in the latest opinion polls.”

2) He sees he may be out of power soon, and he’s “obsessed by his place in history.” Burston writes, “Netanyahu still has no legacy beyond the number of all those many years in power.”

3) Netanyahu may also provoke war to distract from the ongoing probes into his corruption: “He’s desperate because police detectives and investigative journalists are closing in on him.”

Burston’s allegations are astonishing, especially the last one. Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon to attack Hezbollah cost it 121 lives, and more than 1000 other people also died, most of them Lebanese civilians. Would the Israeli prime minister really put his people at risk just to selfishly cover up his own (alleged) financial criminality?

Earlier this year, Larry Derfner (who has published a compelling memoir about abandoning liberal Zionism) warned in a New York Times Op-Ed article that Israel, not its neighbors, provokes the regular armed clashes. “Counterintuitive though it may be to Israeli and most Western minds, Israel, not its militant Islamic or brutal Syrian enemies, is the aggressor in these border wars.”

Anyone who only reads the U.S. mainstream press will be stunned to learn about this rising feeling in Israel that a wider war is coming. Meanwhile, Derfner reacted to last night’s Israeli strike against the Iranian base in Syria: “I oppose this latest attack just like I oppose all the others. They’re all part of Israel’s ‘neighborhood bully’ policy, which has been going on for decades. Nothing new here. The coming war won’t be anything new, either, except for all the new people who will get killed in it.”

James North

James North is a Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large, and has reported from Africa, Latin America, and Asia for four decades. He lives in New York City.

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13 Responses

  1. JosephA on December 2, 2017, 10:15 am

    If Milikewski (Netanyahu) is concerned about his place in history, he should consider stopping his racist, fascist policies and reverse course very quickly. Easier said than done, I know.

  2. Brewer on December 2, 2017, 12:25 pm

    “Derfner does not believe Hezbollah or Iran would start the conflict, “because they know they’d get crushed.” He explains, “The only one I see starting it is Israel, because Israel is both strong and paranoid.””
    Neither Hezbollah nor Iran will start a War and Israel would be foolish to. For all its bluff and bluster, Israel suffers the aversion to body bags that comes with being a technologically oriented aggressive force. A War with a now battle-hardened, better equipped Hezbollah will involve casualties in Israel cities and IAF losses. I suspect you will see the end of Netanyahu and a more circumspect Israeli foreign policy, possibly the return of Shebaa and the Golan.
    The Syrian War has not gone as planned.

    • Popsiq on December 2, 2017, 3:30 pm

      Israel hasn’t had a good ‘bleed’ since the 1949 war. You can’t build a real monument to a handful of dead – no matter how much you say you can’t afford to lose them. Look at Washington DC – even the US Civil War and two World War monuments pale to insignificance beside a Vietnam monument listing the names of 60 000 dead. They even had to put the Iraq/Afghan memorial (a mere 4 000 dead – more than the total of Israel’s combat losses) right beside it so people would visit them.

    • Theo on December 4, 2017, 12:18 pm

      Israel should very carefully look at our records of winning wars, although we have the most sophisticated weaponry in the world! Since WWII we have not won a single one of them, proving that with airpower you can destroy buildings, towns and even cities, but you cannot win a war.
      Barefooted Vietnamis chased us out of their country, after killing around 50,000 of our sons and daughters, we suffered the same fate in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia and in a few other less known places.

  3. Popsiq on December 2, 2017, 3:22 pm

    A war on Syria would be a far more manageable proposition. It can be framed as ‘helping’, it is closer, it will be supported by the USA and it could affect Iran through its Syrian connection. Granted Israel could remove Assad and occupy at least parts of Syria, but it runs the risk of reviving the defense of the Ummah against the poor jews – who could and probably will be struck wherever they live. Jerusalem needs those ISIS assholes waging jihad on somebody else.

    Besides Trump would consider the regime change a personal favor (he muffed that) and , probably, would ‘reciprocate’ by doing Iran – another personal growth opportunity for him.

  4. Citizen on December 2, 2017, 4:29 pm

    Even some of us hicks out in the American hinterlands see this is brewing, just as we see why Kushner should be indicted as a foreign agent. WE OF COURSE NOTICE the US main media news shows are ignoring these issues, even while talking about everything else in context.

    • pabelmont on December 2, 2017, 7:49 pm

      In MSM reportage, describing some context is allowed; some is forbidden. Our MSM is a social organization, rife with taboos — taboos driven by advertisers, owners, editors, and reporers themselves 9including self-censorship, sometimes unwitting). some writerse are so weded to their reputations as “experts” of various subjects (expertise developed subject to the above-mentioned taboos) that they dare not contradict their former writings.

      So it goes.

      If we mention Conyers’s alleged misbehavior, can we fail to mention Trump’s? (You betcha.)

  5. Bandolero on December 2, 2017, 5:43 pm

    What I find interesting is that Syria says that Israel this time used ground to ground missiles to attack a Syrian military base.

    The Syrian president Assad long ago claimed that the IAF is acting as Al Qaeda’s air force.

    But now, weeks after the Israeli military said one of it’s F35 stealth jets was grounded due to being hit by a bird – while Syria hours before said it had hit an Israeli attack plane, Israel seems to use no manned jets anymore to help Al Qaeda by attacking Syria, just missiles.

    And the Syrian journalist Wael said, Syria manged to intercept 3 of 5 incoming Israeli missiles yesterday:

    It seems that Israel didn’t manage to cause much damage with the latest aggression:

    If that information all proves true in the next days, that would mark a dramatic development: Israel lost the total air superiority it had for several decades in the region.

  6. pabelmont on December 2, 2017, 7:52 pm

    Context: Israel helps Al Qa’ida which (perhaps with Taliban) was once-upon-a-time named by USA as the raison-d’etre for its war-on-terror, Our ally Israel is allies with out arch-enemy Al-Qa’ida?

    So it goes.

    • Bandolero on December 2, 2017, 10:45 pm


      It’s more than that. Many U.S. allies of the U.S. were in Syria on the side of Al Qaeda – which is the only declared war that the U.S. has going on – and that since more than 16 years. That long duration of war raises the question if the U.S. can win that war, and if not why. One of the clear answers to that question is, that Al Qaeda can’t be defeated as long as it is supported by major U.S. allies and by political forces close to these allies inside the U.S.

      While there is not much that the U.S. government can do about these powerful political forces inside the U.S. in the short term, externally the U.S. government has some critical influence it can use to advance a policy neccessary for defeating Al Qaeda. And so it is done. But while U.S. allies like Qatar and Turkey stopped their policy of supporting Al Qaeda a while ago, when they also managed to set up better relations with Russia and Iran, some U.S. allies, primarily Israel and Saudi Arabia, seem to stick to their policy of supporting Al Qaeda.

      Israel’s head of government had even publicly opposed an agreement struck by the presidents of the USA and Russia and the king of Jordan to get rid of Al Qaeda and associated jihadis in South Western by bringing peace to south western Syria. And that is while it is an undisputed fact that Al Qaeda linked ISIS terrorists rule since years over a border strip of land in south western Syria that can only be feeded and supplied by Israel or Jordan. At whatever map one looks, in the South Western corner of Syria is a strip of ISIS territory that cannot be militarily supplied any other way than via Jordan or Israel.!Syrian_Civil_War_map.svg/1280px-Syrian_Civil_War_map.svg.png

      Jordan struck a deal with the USA and Russia, but Israel opposes that. And that is while high ranking Israeli figures clearly said time and again that Israel prefers Al Qaeda’s rule over the rule of Iran. See here Michael Oren for example, in the Israeli paper Jpost:

      And that Israeli persistence on supporting Al Qaeda and associated jihadis to counter Iranian influence continues to this day, though Israel clearly understands that the U.S. is at war with Al Qaeda and not at war with Iran – while other major U.S. allies like Turkey and Qatar stopped their support for Al Qaeda and associated jihadis already a while ago.

      • Citizen on December 3, 2017, 4:03 am

        And these macro inconsistencies are never discussed in US main media news.

  7. Stephen Shenfield on December 4, 2017, 5:40 pm

    Wars are often started for domestic political reasons. Czarist interior minister von Plehve said that Russia needed a ‘short victorious war to stem the tide of revolution’ but in the ensuing 1905 war with Japan Russia was defeated. In 1994 some of Yeltsin’s advisers again felt that the Russian government needed a short victorious war, this time in Chechnya. It is easy to start a war but usually the war does not turn out short and victorious.

  8. LibertyRising on December 6, 2017, 7:58 am

    Netanyahu has no reason to fear having a place in history, it’s already his: standing shoulder-to-shoulder with his mentor, Adolph Hitler.

    If Israel starts a war in Syria, what role will Russia and their troops in Syria play? Does N think he can walk over them as well?

    This could be the stone that finally topples the leading terrorist state in the ME: Israel.

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