This is really one too many times. Jeffrey Goldberg has perfected — nay, has transformed into an art form — a process in which he starts unfounded rumors or promotes really weak and unsubstantiated claims into prominence while simultaneously pretending to disavow them. Incidentally, he does the same thing with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process too: he’s always against the settlements generally, but by God, if you actually come up with an idea of how to combat this ongoing injustice, he’s having none of it. (See “Beinart, Peter” for more information.) And the same thing with anti-Semitism too: he has no problem implying in very unsubtly disguised statements how anti-Semitic he finds the average critic of Israel, but once confronted with abusing and misusing the term, he quickly denies it.
So today, after already playing this game before, Goldberg once again spins the “plausible deniability” wheel once more, for old times’ sake:
The prominent Israeli commentator Amnon Abramovich argues that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to go for early electons – now scheduled for September 4 — means that Netanyahu (and his defense minister, Ehud Barak), will still have plenty of time to launch a preemptive strike before the American presidential election in early November…
Seems doubtful to me, for what it’s worth. Too many moving parts, too many risks involved — Netanyahu doesn’t like risk (especially when compared to his militarily adventurous predecessors) and the timeline is very short. It’s hard to believe he would order a (cataclysmic, IMO) strike on Iran while trying to build a governing coalition for his next term. I also tend to think he would not order a strike during Obama’s second term, should Obama win reelection. Abramovich is right that Obama would have a hard time being critical of Israel before the upcoming American election. But he would be freer to punish Israel after. What I wouldn’t rule out is a Netanyahu-ordered strike before he goes to elections. Not immediately — he needs to see what America can accomplish in the upcoming negotiations with Iran (my prediction: nothing much), but sometime after that, especially if intelligence suggests that Iran is moving centrifuges into the hardened facility at Fordow at a more rapid clip. But an October surprise? Not probable.
“Hey, America, just for the record, I’m saying it’s not probable, OK? As in, this rumor that I just created out of thin air has no basis. I repeat, no basis. I know it seems extremely credible, as it’s based on absolutely nothing (much like my advocacy of the Iraq war, interestingly enough) and was just concocted right now out of sheer boredom and my recurring warmongering itch, but don’t worry…Israel will probably not attack Iran. Israel will likely not do the thing that I just suggested it may do, even though there’s no reason to think they would in the first place. I know, I know, I just put the thought in your minds now, but seriously…just pretend I never said anything. Actually, on second thought, don’t. Because, you know, Israel might attack Iran.”
Memo to Goldberg — well, now you really look like an idiot:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition chairman MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) reached a surprise agreement early Tuesday morning to form a national unity government.
The move came as the Knesset was preparing to disperse for early elections, which were expected to be scheduled for September 4.
But fear not, Goldberg has already rallied. Literally in the time it has taken me to write this part of my post, he has responded to the Haaretz article with a blog post titled, “Forget That No-October-Surprise-Iran Attack Business I Was Talking About Before:”
Bibi Netanyahu seems to have solidified his coalition through 2013 by bringing in the Kadima Party, formerly headed by his arch-foe Tzipi Livni, now headed by his not-so-arch foe Shaul Mofaz. If the reports out of Israel are true, this means no election September 4, and it means that Netanyahu can proceed apace with whatever he’s thinking about doing re: Iran’s nuclear sites. This is not to say that he brought Kadima into his coalition to clear the way for an attack; Mofaz — Iranian-born, by the way — is on record as opposing an Iran strike, though people I speak to say he would back such a strike in a crunch (namely, if he saw proof Iran was rapidly approaching the “zone of immunity,” in which it could enrich uranium in impregnable bunkers).
You see? He’s still not saying he expects an October surprise or anything. He’s just implying that that’s exactly what’s going to happen. Because it would be really, really cool if it did.