Monday October 20, 2014
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20.10.2014
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Dr. Gabi Avital

Tolerable pain is better than perpetual nightmare

On Jan. 15, 1991, a group of prominent Israeli writers and artists gathered at the Tzavta Hall in Tel Aviv and held an event in an attempt to prevent war from breaking out in the Persian Gulf, fully confident that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was way too smart to launch missiles at Israel. That night, the first Iraqi Scuds were fired at Israel.

A little more than two decades later, the same group of Israeli writers and artists are once again gathering, this time in the Israeli media and with the massive support of defense experts, to sow panic and warn that the worst is yet to come. Iran will barrage us with missiles, which will be joined by tens of thousands of rockets from the north, and result in all-out war.

After publicly hinting that a nuclear Iran would not be so bad, since North Korea, India and Pakistan also have the bomb, another wave of fatalistic threats is being hurled at Israeli citizens. Headlines scream out: The homefront is ill prepared; there is a shortage of bomb shelters; not every citizen has a gas mask; traffic jams unseen since the first Gulf War will block roads and prevent military convoys from reaching their destinations; airports and sea ports will shut down. In other words, the winds of war will bring ominous black clouds directly over our heads.

I would like to throw some cold water on these torch bearers' claims. First, Iran can fire no more than 200 missiles in retaliation to an Israeli attack. These missiles, the Shihab-3 and Sajil-2, carry a warhead only slightly larger than that of the familiar Scud, and are less accurate. Their destructive capability is limited to a building or two. Israel's time-tested radar systems will identify each Iranian missile's target before it hits and will fire an Arrow missile, like the Iron Dome, to intercept it, so that at least 80 percent of Iran's expensive, clumsy missiles won't even hit their targets. So how much truth is there behind the fear mongering?

And what of the axis of evil to the north? Despite the thousands of rockets at its disposal, Hezbollah today is a shadow of its former self, while the Syrians are busy massacring each other. Israel has a proven military capability to leave Lebanon and Syria without infrastructure, power, water, bridges, command or control stations within the course of two hours, so where does this fear of an uncontrollable regional war come from? In fact, once the IDF's power shifts from deterrence to practice, perhaps the big war will be averted.

In short: What is the alternative? One nuclear bomb could kill more than 20,000 people and leave an equal number wounded. What spiritual leader would be willing to accept responsibility for that?

Also, even if the bomb is not used, Israel would still be living under a constant nightmare scenario of nuclear threat. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey will demand nuclear weapons from the U.S., and they will get them. And let us not overlook the economic damage of such a scenario.

Worst of all, those who are counting on Israel's second-strike capability are delusional if they think that there won't be a debate on whether a second strike is necessary. Israel's nuclear deterrence will disintegrate. If all else fails, we must attack in full force. Every Jew feels that if we have an army, it needs to step up. It's better to suffer tolerable pain than to live a perpetual nightmare.

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