February 3rd, 2012
02:44 PM ET

Iran on their minds

By Kevin Flower reporting from Herzliya

Every year the who's who of Israel's national security community gather in the tony seaside city of Herzliya for a three-day conference that organizers describe as "an informed debate on the most pressing issues on the national and international agendas."

The 12-year-old Herzliya Conference has in short time become one of the most important forums for open discussion of Israel's national security and foreign policy objectives.

In 2002, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon used the conference to announce his support of the "road map" for peace with the Palestinians, and in 2006 his successor, Ehud Olmert, told conference attendees that he supported the creation of a Palestinian state and that Israel would have to give up parts of the West Bank if it were to remain a Jewish majority country.

In keeping with tradition, Israeli politicians and military leaders lined up to hear speeches and participate in panels at this week's conference, which ended Thursday.But discussion of the decades-old conflict with the Palestinians was not at the top of the agenda this time. Instead, panels with names like "The Ticking Clock: Dissuading and Changing Iran's Strategic Ambitions" and "The Shifting Balance of Power: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, and Turkey in the Middle East" were the ones attracting attention.

Iran has been a major topic of conversation in previous gatherings, but as tensions over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program increase by the day and speculation about the possibility of an Israeli military strike becomes more fevered, any and all statements made in Herzliya were under intense scrutiny as conference attendees and journalists covering the event parsed every sentence from Israeli officials for clues about Israel's intentions.

It was the closing address by Israel's defense minister, Ehud Barak, that was among the most anticipated event on the conference calendar.

The Israeli former-general-turned-politician repeated his government's concerns that Iran's preparations for the development of a nuclear weapon are entering their final stages and will soon "enter the immunity zone from which the Iranian regime will be able to complete the program without any effective intervention."

While not explicit about when Iran might become immune, Barak suggested stopping it now is imperative.

"Dealing with a nuclear Iran will be far more complex, far more dangerous and far more expensive in blood and money than stopping it today" he said in a packed conference hall. "In other words, those who say in English 'later' may find later is too late."

Israel's vice prime minister and former military chief of staff, Moshe Yaalon, seemed less worried about an "immunity zone" limiting a possible military option against Iran's nuclear program

"Any facility defended by a human being can be penetrated," he said. "Any facility in Iran can be hit, and I speak from experience as the IDF chief of staff."

Keeping descriptions of time frames and concrete steps vague, Yaalon said the clock is ticking and if countries of the world have any fears "they should be determined in the next few months to take steps against the nuclear action in Iran."

The head of Israeli military intelligence, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, offered a somewhat more precise time line about Iran's nuclear program, saying he believes it would take scientists in the country a year to complete development of a nuclear weapon once the decision to proceed is made, but the country already has enough enriched material to build four nuclear weapons.

Iran's nuclear program, Kochavi argued, is driven by three goals: "regional hegemony," "deterrence" and "to become a regional and world player." But the country, he said, is under increasing pressure as a result of enhanced sanctions and some of the sweeping political changes taking place in the region.

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Filed under: Analysis • Iran • Israel • Middle East
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Esp20

    There is a difference between preparing for defensive purposes versus premeditating an attack in order to destroy an "enemy". Iran is clear about wanting to destroy Israel – Iran says as much almost in a daily basis. If a nation state (Iran) threatens to seek a foreign nation state's destruction (Israel), that nation state (Israel) should be given the right to defend and (pre)counter-attack in self-defense.

    February 6, 2012 at 9:15 am | Reply
  2. mipolitic

    back in 1938 this was said repeatly MR CHAMBERLIAN HITLER NEEDS TO BE STOPED BEFORE HE ATTACKS, the respons was, hitler threats will never come about.
    again in 1938 MR PRESIDENT HILTER IS THREATING TO ATTACK , again the response was , they are hollow threats and will never come about.
    NSA report to congress and the president in june 2001 terrorist are planing to attack the USA within its boarders. response , well thanks for the info but that is unlikely

    February 5, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Reply
  3. Karen

    NONE of this has ANYTHING to do with the illegal settlements or Palestinian's welfare. I do not believe that Iran (and others in the region) really care much about this issue, despite declarations thet they do. It IS a good cause to rally around and serves to justify anger and distrust of Isreal. Bottom line- Iran is not much concerned with the people caught in the middle. If they did they would not be threatening to "wipe Isreal off the face of the map". Bombs do not necessarily respect a map's borders and can as easily land on the wrong side of the line, as not. If you defend Palestinian statehood and human rights-great! DO NOT confuse your defense of the Palestinian's rights to exist as state next to Isreal and other countries with Iran's threats against Isreal's right to exist. When you do, you diminish the argument you make.

    February 5, 2012 at 3:11 am | Reply
  4. Deano

    Dye for nothing????? You morron. So you wouldnt die for your freedom our your children? What a coward!!! Vietnam was for nothing and pointless and no winner. But nukes are for sure and for real, thanks to canada pakastane has them but we have to put a stopt o it. so we let al-queta have nukes , you say. mise well the hell with it. I dont want to live in that world and will die to protect my country and my children while you stay at home soweing and bakeing. you pussy

    February 5, 2012 at 1:27 am | Reply
  5. Deano

    Lol oh please no. This threat comming from a third world country.We will bomb them into the stone age eh Bush . Oh ya they are already ther

    February 5, 2012 at 1:19 am | Reply
  6. rob

    i just been wanting to comment on this everytime were against something china & russia always against it i think the main reason is their both envy this great country of ours the russian cant accept till now that we beat them by not even firing a single shot and china is postering like its really somebody that will challenge us heck the reason ther fucking country is powerful right now is because of our greedy U.S corps that brought all the manufacturing jobs over their its U.S corps that made them wealthy now they think their better than us fucking wannabes

    February 4, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Reply
    • Lord Haw Haw

      I can't wait until we actually fuck with them to the point where we have to bring back back the draft so that we can send tough-talking chickenhawk, chickenshit little war-mongering faggots such as yourself off to die for absolutely fucking nothing.

      Brainless fucking tool. Only good for serving as cannon fodder.

      February 5, 2012 at 1:12 am | Reply
  7. CheeseSteak

    This is a key moment for Israel. To ignore the nuclear threat of a country that has indicated it's desire to see them wiped from the face of the earth is not an option. Iran cannot win. Israel cannot win. There is no winner per se, only the assurance that neither country will prevail and both will suffer. This is a no-win situation.

    Having said that, the only logical choice is for Israel to attack Iran with enough firepower to destroy or set back their nuclear program and deal with the conventional war aftermath. Better than being held a virtual captive for eternity by Iran.

    February 4, 2012 at 12:18 am | Reply
    • Roy Cohn


      February 4, 2012 at 2:23 am | Reply
      • Alex

        dont do it in public

        February 6, 2012 at 9:31 am |
  8. Judy

    I don't understand Israel's position, they are forever whining poor me and accusing every nation of wanting to destroy them. Yet, they force brutal occupation on the Palestinian people and deny the Palestinians the right to exist – Statehood, yet whine and complain when other nations speak the same of them. So, is Iran just a diversion, so while the world is watching Iran, Israel will continue to encroach and build more illegal settlements in Palestinian Territory until they have wiped the Palestinians off the map. Sanctions should be imposed on Israel as well, until they allow Palestine the right to exist – then maybe the grave situation in the Middle East will go away.

    February 3, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Reply
    • LiveFreeOrDie

      Judy, can you even find Israel on map? They are not a nation of whining finger pointers, rather they do what is necessary in a region full of opposition where they are clearly the minority bigoted against by Islamic nations. Strategically, they are pressed up against the Mediterranean Sea. What is Israel attempts to do is rally international support and allies. The Palestinians have become nothing more than thugs at this point. They have been given multiple chances to form settlements in Israel peaceably and continue to bicker with Israelis and their people. Terrorist groups and the anti-Semetic nations in the region use the turmoil as an excuse to carry out attacks on Israel. If the Palestinians, or anyone else, really wants a democratic nation, they should try putting down their weapons and actually creating a governing body that their people can trust.

      February 5, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Reply
  9. herp derp


    February 3, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Reply
  10. mipolitic

    the mossad chief said in a statement that at any given time there is 20,000 missiles aimed at israel, the math is clear , to engage this threat one on one would cause thousands of israeli casualties, the solution is a strike that leaves only an aftermath.

    February 3, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Reply

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