Posted by Gina Lobaco
The games go on. It’s Day 5 of the Chai Maccabiah and box scores can be found for most events in the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz. Just as the games go on, so do the snafus and foul-ups.,
On Tuesday morning, just as the Israel-Mexico softball match was under way, local cops showed up and stopped the game. Seems like the Maccabiah officials hadn’t procured the necessary business license from the local municipality. After a battle of quotes in local papers, the problem was sorted out when the necessary license was procured and the softball series resumed today.
The Indian delegation of cricketeers handily dispatched the Israeli cricket team. Steve Soboroff, who put together a 45-minute email fundraising campaign to bring them to Israel, said that this was the only time he was glad to hear that Israel was defeated.
Jamie McCourt (nee Luskin) was in Tel Aviv from L.A. as part of the Committee of 18 delegation that is attempting to help bring U.S. sports marketing and promotion expertise to the Maccabiah World Union. She also made a significant donation to support the event. On Tuesday, after a morning meeting which took her, Steve Soboroff and others on the committee to meet with Shimon Peres at the president’s house in Jeusalem, she went back to Tel Aviv to throw out the opening pitch of the baseball series.
Anywhere you go in Israel, you will see groups of Maccabiah athletes and supporters—at the shuk in Tel Aviv, at Yad Vashem and at the Kotel. They are here in large numbers and not all Tel Avivians are thrilled about the extra congestion they bring to already clogged city arteries. Hard to believe, but traffic here is much worse than L.A.
WATER POLO MOM—OPINIONATED BUT NOT A PIT BULL WITH LIPSTICK
But I’m here as the mother of an athlete, so my time is spent schlepping by sherut out to the Wingate Institute (the country’s national sports facility) to watch the water polo matches. And a disclaimer: I’m also not a sports reporter, although I’ve spent a lot of time in bleachers over the years watching my boys play baseball, basketball, soccer and water polo. So if I give offense, by deviating from customary observations, please excuse. Unlike hockey moms, we’re not pitbulls with lipstick—but we do have our opnions.
The US men’s team beat the Canadian team 18-12 on Tuesday. The Canadian players are, shall we say, “mature”—with many of them in their mid-30s and one of them meeting the mid-century mark. They were out-swum by the US team which is younger and far fitter. Let’s just say nobody will be calling the Canadian team to do a calendar shoot, with a few exceptions.
On Wednesday, the US took on Brazil, which gave a good effort, but went down to defeat 14-5. Brazil put the first ball in the cage, but soon Adam Metzger and Nestor Dordoni scored two apiece and ran up the score to 4-1. By the end of the first quarter, the US was in control. By the end of the game the score went like this:
Adam Metzger (Cal ’00) 2
Jamie Neuwirth (JHU ’10) 1
Nestor Dordoni (UCSD ’09) 3
Brad Roslyn (Bucknell ’06) 1
Kevin Platshon (Cal ’07) 3
Zach White (Cal ’11) 4
THIS JUST IN: U.S. DEFEATS ISRAEL 8-6 IN WATER POLO
Things could get interesting in the water polo final. The US team just beat Israel 8-6. The US team has not won the final against Israel since 1973. Seventeen-year-old Spencer Borisoff, called “mighty mouse” by his teammates scored two points. Spencer is from La Canada in L.A. County and will be joining his older brother, Devon, on the USC squad this fall. He is the youngest of the three SoCal brothers who all play at high levels of competition. Their counterparts in NorCal are the Platshon brothers—Kevin, Aaron and Scott—who respectively play or played for Cal (’07), Bucknell (’05) and Stanford (’13) and all of whom have berths on this Chai Maccabiah squad. Ever reliable Nestor Dordoni scored 2; Zach White scored 1 and Kevin Platshon scored 1. The final will be played at Wingate after havdallah on Saturday.
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July 16, 2009 | 3:00 am
Posted by Tom Tugend
Posted by Tom Tugend
A memorial service is being planned for Robert Korda, a longtime violinist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, whose apparent disappearance puzzled his family, police and most of Los Angeles for four days, until his body was discovered at the coroner’s office.
Korda also played as a guest violinist with the Israel Philharmonic during its 1986 American tour and was the leader of the Monseigneur Strings, a top society dance orchestra that performed for eight presidents and was founded by his late brother, Murray Korda.
According to his son Noah, Robert Korda left his Van Nuys home on July 8 in the afternoon heading for the Gower Studios in Hollywood, where he was scheduled to work that evening.
When the 68-year old Korda did not return home, his frantic family phoned police, hospitals and Korda’s cell phone provider, without success.
The following day, Noah Korda blogged an appeal for help to find his father, which spread rapidly through the Internet and was picked up by the general media.
Four days later, on July 12, officials at the Los Angeles County coroner’s office revealed that Korda’s body had been in their custody all along, but had been overlooked by investigators because his name had been entered into the system as “Robert Norda.”
A coroner’s spokesman said that Korda had been found unresponsive around 7 p.m. on July 8 at a home in Glendale, was rushed to a hospital and pronounced dead an hour later.
Apparently Korda died of natural causes, but police officers are continuing their investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death, police spokeswoman Jane Guzman said Tuesday (7/14).
In a phone interview, Venida Korda, Robert Korda’s former wife, said Tuesday that the violinist had played with the L.A. Philharmonic from 1960 – 1980. Afterwards, he became a freelance musician, playing with various orchestras and chamber music groups.
His longtime friend and colleague, cellist Pete Snyder, described Korda to the Los Angeles Times as a talented and dedicated musician, with a beautiful sound, an exceptional improviser, and possessing a great sense of humor.
Mrs. Korda said that her former husband of 26 years, who did not remarry after their divorce 10 years ago, frequently played his violin in San Fernando synagogues and that the family attended services at Adat Ari El and Temple B’nai Hayim.
The family flew to Israel 25 years ago to celebrate the bar mitzvah of Noah, now 38, in Beersheba. Mrs. Korda recalled that she handmade tallitot for Noah, and for the b’nai mitzvah of his younger siblings, Aaron and Sarah.
Mrs. Korda said that she, like the police, was unable at this time to explain the circumstances of Robert Korda’s death and why the family had not been notified immediately.
As of Tuesday, funeral services are pending in Vermont and a memorial service in Los Angeles.
Korda served on the board of directors of The Music Guild, and the family requests that any donations in his memory be addressed to The Music Guild, 6022 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 203, Los Angeles, CA 90036.
July 14, 2009 | 5:37 pm
Posted by Gina Lobaco
The opening ceremony last night at Ramat Gan was an incongruous mixture of kitschy theatricality and truly uplifting communal values. Security is obviously intense at an event like this, but even so, ticketholders got to their seats by 8 p.m. and then began a bit of a wait for the show to begin.
Even in this worldwide recession, the 18th Maccabiah is the largest ever and the U.S. delegation with 900 athletes was announced last night as the “largest traveling sports delegation ever at any time at any sporting event.” And there were many amazing stories behind the various delegations who streamed into the stadium. But first, spectators viewed an opening spectacle of little girls in leotards riding lighted bikes in formation. .
President Shimon Peres (who received the No. 1 athlete number) arrived by limo in the stadium to a warm reception from the crowd. He joined Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, (No. 2 athlete) who was already seated in the stands, and who received a reception from the crowd that can only be described as tepid .
But when the delegations started streaming into the stadium, that’s when the magic began.
Marching in alef-bet order, first came five athletes from Uzbekistan. They filed into the stadium in huge numbers that seemed to never end—like the Canadians, Australians and Team USA. Or they marched alone as solitary athletes, like the single participants from Uruguay, Moldova and Slovenia. It was terribly poignant to see only three athletes from Romania, a country that pre-Shoa was home to a vibrant and robust Jewish community. There were Jews from Guatemala, Peru and Chile and Greece and Turkey—and two from Kazakhstan and 12 from Azerbaijan . The Italians had a small group, but received a huge response from the crowd.
One of the most amazing stories was the India cricket team, whose participation was enabled by L.A.’s Committee of 18 led by the indefatigable Steve Soboroff who raised the money to bring them here after the Mumbai massacres last year. They had nothing whatsoever—no equipment, shoes, clothes. Yet they strode into the stadium looking sharp and joyous in handsome tan suits and ties. They had just won their first victory that day, defeating Israel 134-127.
The Israeli delegation, 2000 strong, entered last and by that time the center field was alive with the bright colors of flags from so many nations and their athletes trading pins, caps and even stripping off team uniforms to trade with other participants. The Mexican delegation’s big gold-stitched sombreros were greatly prized as trade items.
A moving Yizkor ceremony commemorated the four Australian athletes who died in 1997 when a pedestrian bridge collapsed and plunged them into the Yarkon River where they died from exposure to severe pollution.
Basketball great Tal Brody administered the Maccabiah other, politicians—including Bibi—spoke and the torch was lit by U.S. Olympian Jason Lezak and Hatikvah was movingly sung by Ayala Ingedeshet, a gorgeous Ethiopian Israel. After all that, you’d think the evening would end on a hig h note with fireworks and lots of great emotion in the crowd and athletes. But, as they say, you would be wrong.
I guess when it comes to mass entertainment, Israelis definitely believe more is more. So we were treated to, “Desert Tree Home,” an utterly unfathomable “live musical” in three acts . It purported to tell the story of our people (“searching wayferers”), dreaming of a moon to light the path to find a tree, to find purpose, to find identity, to build a home, to find the state of Israel? Think of it as Cirque du Soleil channeling Zionism.
The artistic choices may be puzzling but Tthis being Israel, lots of criticisms have been directed at the organizers of the Maccabiah for other more serious reasons. The link to an article from today’s Jerusalem Post talks about the poor accommodation that many athletes encountered—despite paying pretty hefty fees to participate. Most athletes pay their own way and some delegations can provide subsidies and stipends to those who cannot. But the JP contends that many athletes are priced out of the games for a variety of reasons, consequently leaving behind many talented athletes and that the Maccabiah should not be an event for “rich Jews” only.l. http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1246443799468&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
The symbolism in Desert Tree Home may have indulged in too much creative license, with no bearded allusions to Herzl and the undulating tree looked more like the result of a high-school “TP” prank. But the athletes and the spectators certainly got what they came for—and a whole lot more.
July 13, 2009 | 6:31 pm
Posted by Gina Lobaco
Of the 900 members of the U.S.delegation to the 18th Maccabiah, over one-quarter of them hail from the Southern California area. The SoCal contingent includes heavy representation in karate, volleyball, swimming, soccer, and water polo. Among the world’s toughest sports, water polo players like to say it has “no helmets, no pads—just spherical objects used as projectiles.” (I’m paraphrasing here—this is a family blog!) And those balls are thrown at speeds of 90 mph at very close range.
Seven of the U.S. men’s 13-man squad hail from Southern California and are coached by Ben Quittner, who for 13 years coached at H20 polo powerhouse Stanford. If past is prologue, it looks like Israel is once again favored for the gold. In fact, the U.S. team hasn’t taken home the first-place medal since 1973. It’s no surprise, because the Israelis constitute the national team and train together all year round as members of the IDF. And while their average age of 24 is the same as the U.S. men, they are all the same age, while the U.S.men range from 18-24 and have only been playing together a few weeks.
Still, the U.S. men looked good in an early scrimmage against the Israelis, losing only by a goal scored in the last-seconds of the game. But the U.S. really showed its ability in a blowout against the Mexican team, 23-3 on Monday, the first day of competition.
The Mexican team arrived with much fanfare and its huge group of fans and unpacked red-white-and-green noisemakers and proceeded to fill the indoor aquatic stadium at the Wingate Institute with the kind of din you expect to hear at a World Cup playoff. They waved flags, blew horns and spun gigantic groggers in the national colors and the spirited cheering could be heard all the way to Mexico City. But in the end it wasn’t anywhere near enough.
Even though the U.S. team has only been playing together as a team for four weeks, they showed why they are the team for the Israelis to beat. They had their own cheering section, too—some family members accompanied the team, but a group of young Israeli boys and girls, all water polo players, took great delight in chanting: USA! USA! USA! So nice to be in a country where Americans are truly welcome.
July 13, 2009 | 2:31 am
Posted by Gina Lobaco
Max Nordau is kvelling from the great weight room in the sky. The Zionist father of the Maccabi games dreamed of Jews, with rippling muscles and athletic talent who would dispel the old stereotype of physical weakness and give rise to a “new Jew.”
The Sunday evening welcome party of the 18th Maccabi fulfilled Max’s dreams many times over, with Jewish athletes from all over the planet partying hard at the Kfar Maccabiah in Ramat Gan and showing the results of their conditioning.
Tel Aviv has a huge youth culture, and the Maccabiah athletes fit right in. Thousands of them took over the extensive park grounds, exchanging T shirts, eating Chinese food (go figure) , flirting, dancing and sizing up the competition.
A huge soundstage with a DJ and light show kept the crowd stirred up. A female pop trio sang Israeli folk songs redone as electronica followed by a well-intentioned but ragged “tribute to Michael Jackson” by a troupe of dancers who could have used a little more rehearsal time. For the final act, singer/dancer Michal Amdurski covered Olivia Newton John’s “Let’s Get Physical” with no apparent irony.
It is amazing to see so many Jews from so many different places. It’s great to hear German spoken by members of that delegation attired in their punning “Love Isreal” T-shirts. It’s amusing to see softball players from a South American nation with long unpronounceable Eastern European names stitched across their polo shirts smoking cigarettes and looking like they could also be competitive in a hot-dog eating contest—definitely not meeting Max Nordau’s approval .
And who knew Finland has so many Jews? There is even a delegation from Palau. I asked a blond blue-eyed Spanish athlete how many his country sent. When I responded that 76 seemed like a big number for Spain, he said that they have a large Jewish community—15,000. “Not so many,” I replied. “Well, the Inquisition really did us in,” he replied.
Brazilians, Russians, Lithuanians, Hungarians, Brits, Mexicans, Belgians, Argentineans and Dutch. With over 5,000 athletes from 90 different countries, at times it seems a little like the “Jew N.”
July 10, 2009 | 7:12 am
Posted by Gina Lobaco
Yoni Ben Naim has traveled to Israel at least yearly since his birth nine years ago, but this summer, he’s a little nervous about the trip. The Brawerman Elementary School fifth-grader has been tapped to serve as an on-air interviewer for JLTV‘s coverage of the 18th Maccabiah, the quadrennial international Jewish sports competition which begins Monday, July 13, in Israel. (JLTV’s coverage is available nationally on channel 366 via DirecTV; otherwise check your local cable company for channels and times or www.jewishlifeTV.com ).
Yoni isn’t nervous about language differences—he is fluent in Hebrew because, as he explains “My dad is Israeli and he has been teaching me since I was a baby.” Yoni’s fluency will come in handy as will his knowledge and enthusiasm for a range of sports, but particularly basketball and soccer, arguably the Maccabiah’s biggest and most closely watched competitions. Eleven countries are competing in the basketball competition and 18 nations are sending soccer teams.
But he is a little nervous about being on TV. He has been practicing his interviewing technique with his dad, Gal Ben Naim, and watching ESPN for cues on how the pros do it. Stan Van Gundy, the Orlando Magic coach and broadcaster is one of his inspirations and models.
What will he do to avoid a case of the jitters, knowing that thousands of people will be watching him? Yoni says he plans to “not look at the crowd so much” and focus instead on whomever he is interviewing. He has a set of questions he will ask, of course, but doesn’t want to over-prepare.
Yoni is very excited, but doesn’t quite know what to expect. Even though he’s very familiar with Israel, having spent a lot of time at the Jerusalem home of his Savta and Saba, this trip will be a first. After all, not many 5th graders are ready for prime time in two languages.
July 9, 2009 | 5:36 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
I watched a new YouTube video called, “I Resist,” so carefully I can tell you that at minute 1:46 the word subjugation is misspelled.
Yep—I took in every second and all I can say is, I’m sorry.
I’m sorry that the people who made this video, and the people who think it’s powerful or useful or important, don’t understand the fundamental problem with their point of view: it hurts the Palestinians.
Two year olds resist. Grownups say what they are for. Grownups get what they want. Two year olds get what grownups give them.
The Zionist movement, which resulted in the State of Israel, wasn’t a resistance movement against the Ottomans or the British. It was an ongoing campaign to build a Jewish state. It involved resistance, but its main focus was laying the diplomatic, technical, educational, economic and popular groundwork for a state.
It was against Bristih occupation, yes, but most importantly it was FOR a state.
So you resist. I get it. I’ll grant you many Palestinians have suffered.
(Sorry, I can’t grant you the use of the term, ‘genocide,’ even though I know you think it looks really good on posters and in Letters to the Editor. There are more Palestinians now than there were in 1948. The Palestinian population in Jerusalem increased 3% during 2008 while, in contrast, the Israeli population in Jerusalem increased by just one percent. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics announced on 20 October 2004 that the number of Palestinians worldwide at the end of 2003 was 9.6 million, an increase of 800,000 since 2001. If only Hitler had committed that kind of genocide against the Jews.)
And I’ll grant you it would be better for Israel, for the Palestinians, for the world, if Palestinians and Israelis could live in peace and justice.
Is that what you want?
Nope, you just want to ‘resist.’
On your video you show pictures of famous resisters, like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Sheikh Ahmen Yassin.
Did I just see that? You have a picture of the pro-Zionist, non-violent King, who wanted to reconcile black and white, Christian and Moslem and Jew, with the anti-Israel, anti-Jewish founder of Hamas, who sent suicide bombers against Jewish and Arab women and children and spoke against reconciliation with Israel AND with Jews.
You can have Yassin or you can have King, but you can’t have both. Decide.
Decide if you want to just resist, or if you want a state. If you want a state living in peace with Israel, the majority of Jews in Israel and abroad will support you. How do I know? Polls.
A Smith Institute poll conducted in May showed that 58% of Israel’s Jewish public backs the “two states for two peoples” solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. American Jews support it by a wider margin. The President of the United States supports it. Europe and Russia and China support it. The U.N. supports it.
Yet, you ‘resist.’
Decide if you want to resist, or if you want to compromise. The Prime Minister of Israel said he supports two states—call his bluff.
Decide if you want to resist, or if you want to roll the dice and hold out for a one-state solution, when demographic realities will force Israel to either relinquish the West Bank or be undemocratic. But if you want to wait, go ahead and write off another couple of generations of Palestinian children to conflict and bloodshed, and don’t count on things to go your way then, either. Israelis know how to count, too.
Decide if you want to just resist, like a dog on a leash, or if you want to be the masters of you and your children’s fates, as all the great Zionist leaders—pragmatists all—were.
Decide if you want to resist, and allow religious extremists to take over Palestinian territories, or if you want a state that allows dissent, freedom for all lifestyles, and opportunities for beautiful Palestinian women to compete for attention with beautiful Israeli women.
Decide if you want to be ‘resisters’ like the Hamas killers who send rockets into Sderot’s schools, and happily slaughter fellow Palestinians, or be healers, like the Gazan doctor Izeldin Abueliaish, who has not wavered in his belief that Jews and Arabs can live together.
“Palestinians and Jews were created to live together,“ Dr. Abuelaish told me. “And no one can deny the other one’s rights.”
So, yeah, we get it. You’re against Israel.
Here’s the dumb video:
July 7, 2009 | 2:52 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
Sweep every other geopolitical question aside: the biggest issue facing the world right now is Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Why? Because the repercussions of Iran’s unstopped push toward the development of nuclear weapons and their delivery system may include imminent war, uncountable human casualties, a massive disruption in oil supplies, world economic collapse (that is, another one), —all of which may happen sooner rather than later.
The fact that Israel is taking Iranian nuclear development more seriously than any other country doesn’t mean it’s just an Israeli issue. Israel took Islamic terror more seriously than any other country— until September 11, 2001. In the mineshaft of extremism, Jews in general, and Israel in particular, are often the canary.
Israel knows that it must be prepared to act even if the world is unwilling or unable. The immediate question is: should Israel act now?
Those who care about this issue fall into two camps. The Right Nows, who want to attack, um, right now; and the Not Yets, who while reserving the military option, believe the time is not right, and other more peaceful actions may still work.
Should Israel Do It?
Ironically, people on both sides of the debate over whether and when to attack Iran use the recent unrest there to support their claim. The Right Nows say the unrest proves the regime is in firm control, regime change is off the table, and there is no other option. The Not Yets say the unrest proves that the situation is fluid, and attacking will only galvanize the population and unite it with the regime.
The issues hit the headlines this week when CNN reported that President Barack Obama insisted in an interview that he did not give Israel the “green light” to attack Iran.
U.S. President Barack Obama rebuffed suggestions that Washington had given Israel a green light to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, in an interview with CNN on Tuesday.
Asked by CNN whether Washington had given Israel approval to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, Obama answered: “Absolutely not.”
“We have said directly to the Israelis that it is important to try and resolve this in an international setting in a way that does not create major conflict in the Middle East,” Obama said in reference to Iran’s contentious nuclear program.
In the interview broadcast from Russia where he is on an official visit, Obama added, however: “We can’t dictate to other countries what their security interests are.
“What is also true is, it is the policy of the United States to try to resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear capabilities,” Obama said.
This would be achieved “through diplomatic channels,” he added.
But Obama’s public disapproval leaves many questions unanswered: Must Israel wait for US approval? Is Israel facing an imminent mortal threat? What other options are there to deter Iran?
After all—and here’s what the world needs to understand—Iran’s leadership has stated publicly it wants to see Israel destroyed. With nuclear weapons it will have the capability to carry out that desire. Israel must act, America must act, the world must act—but how.
The Right Nows make a convincing case that the window is closing on Israel’s opportunity to counter a mortal threat.
Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton made their case in a July 2, 2009 op-ed in The Washington Post:
With Iran’s hard-line mullahs and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps unmistakably back in control, Israel’s decision of whether to use military force against Tehran’s nuclear weapons program is more urgent than ever.
Iran’s nuclear threat was never in doubt during its presidential campaign, but the post-election resistance raised the possibility of some sort of regime change. That prospect seems lost for the near future or for at least as long as it will take Iran to finalize a deliverable nuclear weapons capability.
Accordingly, with no other timely option, the already compelling logic for an Israeli strike is nearly inexorable. Israel is undoubtedly ratcheting forward its decision-making process.
Bolton castigates Obama for trying diplomacy. The President, he writes, “still wants ‘engagement’… with Iran’s current regime.” He says this would be a huge mistake:
There are two problems with this approach. First, Tehran isn’t going to negotiate in good faith. It hasn’t for the past six years with the European Union as our surrogates, and it won’t start now. As Clinton said on Tuesday, Iran has “a huge credibility gap” because of its electoral fraud. Second, given Iran’s nuclear progress, even if the stronger sanctions Obama has threatened could be agreed upon, they would not prevent Iran from fabricating weapons and delivery systems when it chooses, as it has been striving to do for the past 20 years. Time is too short, and sanctions failed long ago.
Only those most theologically committed to negotiation still believe Iran will fully renounce its nuclear program. Unfortunately, the Obama administration has a “Plan B,” which would allow Iran to have a “peaceful” civil nuclear power program while publicly “renouncing” the objective of nuclear weapons. Obama would define such an outcome as “success,” even though in reality it would hardly be different from what Iran is doing and saying now. A “peaceful” uranium enrichment program, “peaceful” reactors such as Bushehr and “peaceful” heavy-water projects like that under construction at Arak leave Iran with an enormous breakout capability to produce nuclear weapons in very short order. And anyone who believes the Revolutionary Guard Corps will abandon its weaponization and ballistic missile programs probably believes that there was no fraud in Iran’s June 12 election. See “huge credibility gap,” supra.
In short, the stolen election and its tumultuous aftermath have dramatically highlighted the strategic and tactical flaws in Obama’s game plan. With regime change off the table for the coming critical period in Iran’s nuclear program, Israel’s decision on using force is both easier and more urgent. Since there is no likelihood that diplomacy will start or finish in time, or even progress far enough to make any real difference, there is no point waiting for negotiations to play out. In fact, given the near certainty of Obama changing his definition of “success,” negotiations represent an even more dangerous trap for Israel.
The only answer, says Bolton, is military force:
Those who oppose Iran acquiring nuclear weapons are left in the near term with only the option of targeted military force against its weapons facilities. Significantly, the uprising in Iran also makes it more likely that an effective public diplomacy campaign could be waged in the country to explain to Iranians that such an attack is directed against the regime, not against the Iranian people. This was always true, but it has become even more important to make this case emphatically, when the gulf between the Islamic revolution of 1979 and the citizens of Iran has never been clearer or wider. Military action against Iran’s nuclear program and the ultimate goal of regime change can be worked together consistently.
Otherwise, be prepared for an Iran with nuclear weapons, which some, including Obama advisers, believe could be contained and deterred. That is not a hypothesis we should seek to test in the real world. The cost of error could be fatal.
The Not Yets believe that while a military option should remain in force, exercising it now would be a huge mistake.
To them, the unrest in Iran PROVES that the military option would be worse.
As Yair Lapid writes in Yediot, the Israeli newspaper:
It will take weeks, maybe months, before we know where Iran is heading. Revolutions, by their very nature, do not break out – they evolve. The real processes do not occur in front of the cameras, but rather, behind the black hijab. Perhaps this is why the commentators, just like authorities, are always surprised when the point of no return arrives.
The American Revolution started as a minor protest at the Boston port over tea taxes; the famous storming of the Bastille, which became the symbol of the French Revolution, only secured the release of seven prisoners – four conmen, two madmen, and one sexual offender; three long years passed from the day Gorbachev took the stage during the 27th Soviet Party Congress and declared the “Glasnost,” to the day when the masses stormed the Berlin Wall and brought it down with hammers.
Events in Iran are fascinating because they tell us something about the human spirit and the fact that we were born to freedom; however, a long time will pass before we know how it all ends.
Meanwhile, the protestors are redrafting, in Persian, the timeless lines appearing in the US Declaration of Independence: “experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government.”
The collapse of the Ayatollah regime is, of course, everything Israel could ever hope for. We are not only talking about the nuclear issue, but also about much more immediate gains: Hizbullah will dry up, Hamas will lose its main source of strength, and Syria’s backdoor will slam shut.
However, everything happening at Tehran’s Azadi Square – the amazing coming together of young people, Internet culture, social ferment, and woman power – would not have happened had we listened to the regular bunch of hysterical screamers around here and attempted to bomb Iran’s nuclear sites.
What would have happened then? Exactly what happens around here during times of war: The Iranian public would have rallied around the leadership, a wave of patriotic fury would have swept through the whole of Iran, and Ahmadinejad would not have needed to resort to any fraud in order to defeat the reformists.
And so, using our very own fighter jets, we would have lost this one-time opportunity to see genuine domestic change in the Islamic empire of evil. The most absurd thing is that we wouldn’t even have known that we missed this opportunity.
This is the lesson; the question is whether there is anyone around here who would learn it. After all, our screamers always speak on behalf of history, but are never willing to learn anything from their own history.
It’s a tough call. And much of what makes it tough is that no one knows how Israel would carry out such an attack, and whether it would work.
How Israel Would Do It
As Haaretz reported earlier this summer, military expert Anthony Cordesman issued a detail report on how Israel would strike Iran. It painted a very dark picture of the chances for success, and the possible ramifications:
Never before has such an open, detailed and thorough study of Israel’s offensive options been published. The authors of the 114-page study meticulously gathered all available data on Israel’s military capabilities and its nuclear program, and on Iran’s nuclear developments and aerial defenses, as well as both countries’ missile inventory.
After analyzing all the possibilities for an attack on Iran, Toukan and Cordesman conclude: “A military strike by Israel against Iranian nuclear facilities is possible ... [but] would be complex and high-risk and would lack any assurances that the overall mission will have a high success rate.”
The first problem the authors point to is intelligence, or more precisely, the lack of it. “It is not known whether Iran has some secret facilities where it is conducting uranium enrichment,” they write. If facilities unknown to Western intelligence agencies do exist, Iran’s uranium-enrichment program could continue to develop in secret there, while Israel attacks the known sites - and the strike’s gains would thus be lost. In general, the authors state, attacking Iran is justified only if it will put an end to Iran’s nuclear program or halt it for several years. That objective is very difficult to attain.
Intelligence agencies are also divided on the critical question of when Iran will deliver a nuclear weapon. Whereas Israeli intelligence maintains it will have the bomb between 2009 and 2012, the U.S. intelligence community estimates it will not happen before 2013. If the Israeli intelligence assessment is accurate, the window for a military strike is rapidly closing. It is clear to everyone that no one will dare attack Iran once it possesses nuclear weapons.
Since Iran has dozens of nuclear facilities dispersed throughout its large territory, and since it is impossible to attack all of them, Toukan and Cordesman investigated the option of hitting only three, which “constitute the core of the nuclear fuel cycle that Iran needs to produce nuclear weapons grade fissile material.”
Destroying these three sites ought to stall the Iranian nuclear program for several years. The three are: the nuclear research center in Isfahan, the uranium-enrichment facility in Natanz, and the heavy water plant, intended for future plutonium production, in Arak. It is doubtful whether Israel would embark on an offensive with such major ramifications just to strike a small number of facilities, when it is not at all clear that this will stop Iran’s nuclearization for a significant length of time.
The study analyzes three possible flight routes and concludes that the optimal and most likely one is the northern one that passes along the Syria-Turkey border, cuts across the northeastern edge of Iraq and leads into Iran. The central route passes over Jordan and is shorter, but would not be chosen for fear of political trouble with the Jordanians. Using the southern route, which passes over Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, might likewise lead to political entanglements.
To prevent the aircraft being detected en route to Iran, the IAF would use advanced technology to invade and scramble communication networks and radar devices in the countries over which the F-15s and F-16s fly, so even though dozens of planes would pass through the countries’ airspace, they will not be detected. According to the authors, the IAF used this technology in the raid on the Syrian nuclear reactor in Dayr az-Zawr, in September 2007. A hacker system was installed on two Gulfstream G550 aircraft that the IAF bought in recent years.
A strike mission on the three nuclear facilities would require no fewer than 90 combat aircraft, including all 25 F-15Es in the IAF inventory and another 65 F-16I/Cs. On top of that, all the IAF’s refueling planes will have to be airborne: 5 KC-130Hs and 4 B-707s. The combat aircraft will have to be refueled both en route to and on the way back from Iran. The IAF will have a hard time locating an area above which the tankers can cruise without being detected by the Syrians or the Turks.
One of the toughest operational problems to resolve is the fact that the facility at Natanz is buried deep underground. Part of it, the fuel-enrichment plant, reaches a depth of 8 meters, and is protected by a 2.5-meter-thick concrete wall, which is in turn protected by another concrete wall. By mid-2004 the Iranians had fortified their defense of the other part of the facility, where the centrifuges are housed. They buried it 25 meters underground and built a roof over it made of reinforced concrete several meters thick.
The Iranians use the centrifuges to enrich uranium, which is required in order to produce a nuclear bomb. There are already 6,000 centrifuges at the Natanz facility; the Iranians plan to install a total of 50,000, which could be used to produce 500 kilos of weapons-grade uranium annually. Building a nuclear bomb takes 15-20 kilograms of enriched uranium. That means that the Natanz facility will be able to supply enough fissile material for 25-30 nuclear weapons per year.
Because the Natanz facility is so important, the Iranians have gone to great lengths to protect it. To contend with the serious defensive measures they have taken, the IAF will use two types of U.S.-made smart bombs. According to reports in the foreign media, 600 of these bombs - nicknamed “bunker busters” - have been sold to Israel. One is called GBU-27, it weighs about 900 kilos and it can penetrate a 2.4-meter layer of concrete. The other is called GBU-28 and weighs 2,268 kilos; this monster can penetrate 6 meters of concrete and another layer of earth 30 meters deep. But for these bombs to penetrate ultra-protected Iranian facilities, IAF pilots will have to strike the targets with absolute accuracy and at an optimal angle.
But the challenges facing the IAF do not end there. Iran has built a dense aerial-defense system that will make it hard for Israeli planes to reach their targets unscathed. Among other things, the Iranians have deployed batteries of Hawk, SA-5 and SA-2 surface-to-air missiles, plus they have SA-7, SA-15, Rapier, Crotale and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. Furthermore, 1,700 anti-aircraft guns protect the nuclear facilities - not to mention the 158 combat aircraft that might take part in defending Iran’s skies. Most of those planes are outdated, but they may be scrambled to intercept the IAF, which will thus have to use part of its strike force to deal with the situation.
However, all these obstacles are nothing compared to the S-300V (SA-12 Giant) anti-aircraft defense system, which various reports say Russia may have secretly supplied to Iran recently. If the Iranians indeed have this defense system, all of the IAF’s calculations, and all of the considerations for and against a strike, will have to be overhauled. The Russian system is so sophisticated and tamper-proof that the aircraft attrition rates could reach 20-30 percent: In other words, out of a strike force of 90 aircraft, 20 to 25 would be downed. This, the authors say, is “a loss Israel would hardly accept in paying.”
If Israel also decides to attack the famous reactor in Bushehr, an ecological disaster and mass deaths will result. The contamination released into the air in the form of radionuclides would spread over a large area, and thousands of Iranians who live nearby would be killed immediately; in addition, possibly hundreds of thousands would subsequently die of cancer. Because northerly winds blow in the area throughout most of the year, the authors conclude that, “most definitely Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE will be heavily affected by the radionuclides.”
The difficulty involved in an IAF strike would become a moot point if ballistic missiles wind up being used instead of combat aircraft. The Iranians cannot defend against ballistic missiles. The study lays bare Israel’s missile program and points to three missile versions it has developed: Jericho I, II and III. The Jericho I has a 500-kilometer range, a 450-kilogram warhead, and can carry a 20-kiloton nuclear weapon. Jericho II has a 1,500-kilometer range, and entered service in 1990. It can carry a 1-megaton nuclear warhead. Jericho III is an intercontinental ballistic missile with a range of 4,800-6,500 kilometers, and can carry a multi-megaton nuclear warhead. The study says the latter was expected to enter service in 2008.
The authors apparently do not insinuate that Israel will launch missiles carrying nuclear warheads, but rather conventional warheads. By their calculation it will take 42 Jericho III missiles to destroy the three Iranian facilities, assuming that they all hit their marks, which is extremely difficult. It is not enough to hit the target area: To destroy the facilities it is necessary to hit certain points of only a few meters in size. It is doubtful the Jerichos’ accuracy can be relied on, and that all of them will hit those critical spots with precision.
The study also analyzes the possible Iranian response to an Israeli strike. In all likelihood the result would be to spur Iranians to continue and even accelerate their nuclear program, to create reliable deterrence in the face of an aggressive Israel. Iran would also withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which until now has enabled its nuclear program to be monitored, to a certain degree, through inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency. An Israeli strike would immediately put a stop to the international community’s attempts to pressure Iran into suspending development of nuclear weapons.
No Syrian response
Iran would also, almost certainly, retaliate against Israel directly. It might attack targets here with Shahab-3 ballistic missiles, whose range covers all of Israel. A few might even be equipped with chemical warheads. In addition, the Iranians would use Hezbollah and Hamas to dispatch waves of suicide bombers into Israel. The Second Lebanon War showed us Hezbollah’s rocket capability, and the experience of the past eight years has been instructive regarding Hamas’ ability to fire Qassams from the Gaza Strip.
Hezbollah launched 4,000 rockets from South Lebanon during the Second Lebanon War, and their effect on northern Israel has not been forgotten: Life was nearly paralyzed for a whole month. Since then the Lebanese organization’s stockpile was replenished and enhanced, and it now has some 40,000 rockets. Israel does not have a response to those rockets. The rocket defense systems now being developed (Iron Dome and Magic Wand) are still far from completion, and even after they become operational, it is doubtful they will prove effective against thousands of rockets launched at Israel.
An Israeli strike on Iran would also sow instability in the Middle East. The Iranians would make use of the Shi’ites in Iraq, support Taliban fighters and improve their combat capabilities in Afghanistan. They also might attack American interests in the region, especially in countries that host U.S. military forces, such as Qatar and Bahrain. The Iranians would probably also attempt to disrupt the flow of oil to the West from the Persian Gulf region. Since the United States would be perceived as having given Israel a green light to attack Iran, American relations with allies in the Arab world could suffer greatly. Toukan and Cordesman believe, however, that Iran’s ally Syria would refrain from intervening if Israel strikes Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Regarding a possible time frame for an Israeli strike, the authors cited factors that could speed up the decision in this matter. By 2010 Iran could pose a serious threat to its neighbors and Israel, because it would have enough nuclear weapons to deter the latter and the United States from attacking it. Iran’s inventory of effective ballistic missiles capable of carrying nonconventional warheads could also be an incentive. The fear that the country will procure the Russian S-300V aerial-defense system (if it has not done so already) might also serve as an incentive for a preemptive strike.
So what should Israeli policy makers conclude from this American study? That an IAF strike on Iran would be complicated and problematic, and that the chance of it succeeding is not great. That they must weigh all of the far-reaching ramifications that an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities would have, and that they must not be fooled by promises, should any be made, by Israel Defense Forces officers who present the attack plan as having good odds for success.
One of the conclusions from Toukan and Cordesman’s study is that it is questionable whether Israel has the military capability to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, or even to delay it for several years. Therefore, if the diplomatic contacts the Obama administration is initiating with Iran prove useless, and if in the wake of their expected failure the American president does not decide to attack Iran, it is likely that Iran will possess nuclear weapons in a relatively short time. It seems, therefore, that policy makers in Jerusalem should begin preparing, mentally and operationally, for a situation in which Iran is a nuclear power with a strike capability against Israel.
This is the place to emphasize Israel’s mistake in hyping the Iranian threat. The regime in Tehran is certainly a bitter and inflexible rival, but from there it’s a long way to presenting it as a truly existential threat to Israel. Iran’s involvement in terror in our region is troubling, but a distinction must be made between a willingness to bankroll terrorists, and an intention to launch nuclear missiles against Israel. Even if Iran gets nuclear weapons, Israel’s power of deterrence will suffice to dissuade any Iranian ruler from even contemplating launching nuclear weapons against it.
It is time to stop waving around the scarecrow of an existential threat and refrain from making belligerent statements, which sometimes create a dangerous dynamic of escalation. And if the statements are superfluous and harmful - then this is doubly true for a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Of course, none of this contradicts the possibility of taking covert action to hamper the Iranians’ program and supply routes. When the IAF destroyed the Osirak reactor in Baghdad in 1981, the “Begin doctrine” came into being, which holds that Israel will not let any hostile country in the region acquire nuclear weapons. The problem is that what could be accomplished in Iraq more than two decades ago is no longer possible today under the present circumstances in Iran.
The continual harping on the Iranian threat stems from domestic Israeli politics and a desire to increase investment in the security realm, but the ramifications of this are dangerous when you analyze expected developments in Iran’s ballistics: It is impossible for Israel to ignore Iran’s capacity to hit it, and Jerusalem must shape a policy that will neutralize that threat.
In another year, or three years from now, when the Iranians possess nuclear weapons, the rules of the strategic game in the region will be completely altered. Israel must reach that moment with a fully formulated and clear policy in hand, enabling it to successfully confront a potential nuclear threat, even when it is likely that the other side has no intention of carrying it out. The key, of course, is deterrence. Only a clear and credible signal to the Iranians, indicating the terrible price they will pay for attempting a nuclear strike against Israel, will prevent them from using their missiles. The Iranians have no logical reason to bring about the total destruction of their big cities, as could happen if Israel uses the means of deterrence at its disposal. Neither the satisfaction of killing Zionist infidels, nor, certainly, the promotion of Palestinian interests would justify that price. Israeli deterrence in the face of an Iranian nuclear threat has a good chance of succeeding precisely because the Iranians have no incentive to deal a mortal blow to Israel.
Therefore, all the declarations about developing the operational capability of IAF aircraft so they can attack the nuclear facilities in Iran, and the empty promises about the ability of the Arrow missile defense system to contend effectively with the Shahab-3, not only do not help bolster Israel’s power of deterrence, but actually undermine the process of building it and making it credible in Iranian eyes.
The time has come to adopt new ways of thinking. No more fiery declarations and empty threats, but rather a carefully weighed policy grounded in sound strategy. Ultimately, in an era of a multi-nuclear Middle East, all sides will have a clear interest to lower tension and not to increase it.
But other experts have challenged Cordesman’s assesment.
The Weekly Standard interviewed Israeli intelligence experts who see many of the same costs as Cordesman but emerge with a different conclusion (maybe because they live in Israel):
Still, after the costs and benefits are weighed and the enigmas and imponderables are given their due, the Israeli experts come back to where they begin: Only after every other option has been exhausted should a military strike be launched. No one else went as far as former Mossad head Efraim Halevy, who warned that an Israeli attack would “change the whole configuration of the Middle East,” producing “a chasm between Israel and the rest of the region” that would have “effects that would last 100 years.” By far the dominant view in Israel is the view espoused by John McCain: The only thing worse than the consequences of an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would be the consequences of a nuclear Iran.
Short of a full-scale military strike, Israel also has a clandestine option involving the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, sabotage of Iranian facilities, and targeted killings. Nor would this represent a new policy. As Ben-Israel, choosing his words carefully, pointed out, Israeli national security experts have been warning that Iran was 5 years away from producing a nuclear weapon for the last 20. Why do you suppose, he asked, it has taken Iran so long? After all, he observed, 60 years ago in the middle of World War II, it took the United States only a few years to produce the first atomic bomb, and no country that has set its mind to it has taken more than 5 to 10 years. Leaving me to draw the proper inference, Ben-Israel emphasized that clandestine operations can delay but will not destroy Iran’s nuclear program. And the experts agree that time is running out: Absent dramatic action—by the United States, the international community, Israel, or some combination—Iran is on track to join the nuclear club sometime between 2011 and 2014.
For a variety of reasons—President Obama’s attempt to engage Iran may prove futile, the international community may be unable to maintain effective sanctions, the mullahs may hang on to power, an Israeli attack might fail, Israel might elect not to attack Iran—Israelis are compelled to contemplate the structure of an effective containment regime. The challenges are immense. Realists argue that containment based upon the doctrine of mutual assured destruction worked for the 40-year Cold War and will work in the Middle East. But they overlook that in the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 it almost failed.
The realists also rely on a facile analogy. The distinctive variables that Iran and the Middle East add to the mix cast grave doubts on any easy application of Cold War logic. Iran speaks explicitly about wiping out Israel; the Soviet Union never so spoke about the United States. Iran is inspired by a religious faith that celebrates martyrdom and contemplates apocalypse; the Soviet Union was driven by a secular ideology that sought satisfaction in this world. And Iran has no dialogue with Israel; the Soviet Union maintained constant communication with the United States.
These complicating factors make it all the more imperative for Israel, if it wants to construct a successful containment regime, to convey to Iran that it has a devastating second strike capability and is prepared to use it. In addition, it would be useful from the Israeli point of view if the United States were to make Iran understand that America would treat an attack on Israel as an attack on it. And it would provide greater assurance still if Russia were to deliver a similar message.
So now what?