Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Netanyahu Needs a War. He Needs It to Be with Iran. and He Needs It Soon

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Netanyahu Needs a War. He Needs It to Be with Iran. and He Needs It Soon

Article excerpt

BINYAMIN NETANYAHU NEEDS a war. He needs it to be with Iran. And he needs it soon.

Netanyahu needs a war because he's desperate, and because a war might answer two of his more immediate needs: First, an overarching, delaying-action distraction, and second, in the event a war should succeed even as his career fades, the single thing the prime minister wants the most in this life: a legacy.

He's desperate now because he's losing ground fast in the latest opinion polls. He's desperate because after all these many years in power, obsessed by his place in history and his own wishlist comparisons with Winston Churchill, Netanyahu still has no legacy beside the number of all these many years in power.

He's desperate because he's fast losing the support of the bulk of North American Jews, and, perhaps more crucially to him, he may even be losing the backing of Sheldon Adelson.

Most of all, though, he's desperate because as prime minister, he knows that he may not have much time left.

He's desperate because police detectives and investigative journalists are closing in on him. He pretends that the allegations center on innocent favors traded for innocently modest luxuries. But the security-minded public knows only too well that Netanyahu may be involved in malfeasance in securing the purchase of several advanced German-built submarines-potentially Israel's most potent strategic weapon in its continuing confrontation of Mutually Threatened Destruction with Iran.

And things just got worse. Even as Netanyahu's handpicked men sought to ram through a bill to blunt the damage of the police probes, the crude power play counterproductively drained away much of whatever presumption of innocence the Likud leader may still command.

Enter Iran.

For years, Netanyahu chafed as his defense ministers, army chiefs and intelligence agency directors restrained him from going ahead with what they foresaw as an ill-fated, ineffective and possibly catastrophic offensive against Iranian nuclear sites.

It was to be Netanyahu's Churchillian moment. His place in history. And his own brass-and the Barack Obama he so loathed-denied him.

Now, however, just when Netanyahu needs it most, Iran is showing signs that it is coming to him. And just like that, signs of war abound once again.

Citing Iran's mounting presence in Syria, Netanyahu's defense minister has demanded that the military budget be hiked by well over a billion dollars. The demand is particularly extraordinary in view of the fact that the army's chief of staffreportedly sees no need for the increase.

On Nov. 26, the Kuwait-based Al Jarida newspaper reported that Israel had secretly vowed to destroy any Iranian facilities deployed in Syria within 40 kilometers (25 miles) of Israel's northeast border. …

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