President Bush may have intended to scare Iran with his talk last week of “World War III,” said B. Mikhail in Tel Aviv Yediot Aharonot, but he managed to frighten a lot of Israelis instead. Bush warned that allowing Iran to build nuclear weapons would unleash global conflagration—and we believe him. The hothead American president “has already proved that it is possible to enlist him for silly wars.” And our own leader is no more sober: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is the one who went to war with Lebanon “after a two-hour judgment.” We don’t doubt that Olmert would unleash Israeli bombers for a pre-emptive strike on Iran the moment he “received an order from Washington.” So yes, we are now sure that a third world war could break out over Iran. “But not because of the anti-Semite who sits in Tehran—because of the ‘genius’ who sits in the White House.”
Don’t be naive, said The Jerusalem Post in an editorial. That particular anti-Semite, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has already spoken gleefully of annihilating Israel. His fanatical brand of Shiite Islam looks forward to the glorious day when the 12th Imam returns from centuries of exile to convert the world by force, and one sign that that day is coming would be the destruction of the Jews. Do we really want to base our survival on the assumption that he is bluffing? “To deny Islamists mean it when they speak of dominating a weak West and spreading Islamist rule is to be culturally obtuse and insensitive. Why shouldn’t they mean it?” So don’t call President Bush a warmonger for trying to rally the world to stop Iran. “It is not the U.S. that is courting war, but those who would allow the current Iranian regime to obtain nuclear weapons.”
But Ahmadinejad is not the only force in the regime, said Trita Parsi in the Tel Aviv Ynetnews.com. The president does not make policy in Iran; the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the mullahs of the Guardian Council are far more powerful. Ahmadinejad may deny the Holocaust, but he can’t prevent Iranian television from running a highly popular dramatic series about “the heroic efforts of Iranian diplomats to help French Jews escape the Nazis by providing them with Iranian passports.” Most Iranians are pro-American—and even most Iranian leaders are far more pragmatic than ideological. Bush may see Iran as “evil,” but Israel can adopt a more sophisticated analysis that takes into account both the “dangerous rhetoric” of Ahmadinejad and the “less sensationalistic voices” in the regime. “Iran’s pragmatists may not be friendly toward the Jewish state, but neither are they apocalyptic.”
If only we could get the U.S. to see that, said Daniel Levy in Tel Aviv’s Ha’aretz. In an effort to halt the Iranian nuclear programs, the Americans have tried sanctions against Iran and they have tried bluster and threats. The one thing they haven’t tried is “direct, American-led negotiations.” The pragmatists in Iran crave status and recognition, and that’s what U.S. talks would give them. “For Washington, the key emphasis should be securing a verifiable freeze in any nuclear-weapons program.” That’s what we all want, right? Surely we can get there without bloodshed.