-- August 15, 2012-Obama to Meet Netanyahu-Defense Budget Debate Marc Schulman

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Israel Update
A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

August 15, 2012-Obama to Meet Netanyahu-Defense Budget Debate

There has been a collective sigh of relief in the country today. There is a sense it is less likely we are about to attack Iran. The consensus is that President Obama is going to meet with Netanyahu in September. At that meeting it appears the President is going to give an even more clear assurance that if sanctions do not work the United States will attack militarily. There are some questions as to whether President Obama will actually commit to a deadline, or to a specific progress of the Iranian program that would trigger US military action. Most commentators believe there is no chance that Netanyahu will order an attack before the meeting with Obama– and that after the meeting, an attack will be nigh impossible. Of course the amount of distrust between these two leaders is so high, nobody really knows what the outcome will be. As one expert stated: "I would keep your bomb shelter clean for the next year." Tonight's demonstration in front of Barak's house was smaller then the last few nights. Of course no one knows what is really going on- The Tel Aviv municipality announced tonight that the underground parking lot in the city are being readied as bomb shelters- they can hold a very large number of people. 

Earlier today there was an interesting commentary made by one expert regarding the immediate danger of an Iranian bomb. It was both comforting and scary. His comments were comforting, in that he stated that if a bomb landed on Israel (or even Tel Aviv), it would not be the end of the State. He estimated that 30,000 would die, and a neighborhood likely be wiped out. Of course, considering where I live, it would probably be our neighborhood. But the importance of what this expert said was not in the actual numbers he cited. The dropping of a bomb here would certainly be a disaster, but it would not wipe out the state. However, should we be forced to act, our counterattack would wipe out Iran. Therefore, the expert surmised that even the not fully sane Mullahs would not be willing to have their country destroyed, just to hurt us. That fact, coupled with the ability of the "Chetz" to intercept an Iranian missile make the reality of their attacking us very unlikely. The same commentator still thought it was immensely dangerous for the Iranians to have the missile, since it would result in all of our neighbors acquiring weapons– and the number of wars that have been started in our part of the world by mistake are way to high to trust that there would not be a mistake with the use of the bomb if too many people had that capability.

There was a special meeting of the cabinet to discuss next year's defense budget. This has become a very important matter, since Israel is facing a massive deficit next year. And if the defense budget is not cut, it means everything else has to be cut even more. The essential question to assess what level of threat Israel will face in the coming years. The most difficult part of quantifying the level of potential threat to Israel requires interpreting the effect the Islamic Revolution that has taken place around us will have on our neighbors. There are two ways of looking at this issue. On one hand, the chances of peace have diminished. We are in danger of finding ourselves at greater odds with Egypt, and we face an unknown future in Syria. On the other hand, our neighbors are now economic basket cases. Egypt will find it nearly impossible to feed its population- no less become involved in a conflict with us, requiring them to spend money on additional armaments. So leaving aside the Iranian issue (hard to do), it would seem to me that over the next few years we face a lessened threat from our immediate neighbors. However, we do not know what lurks over the horizon. For that reason, we need to be prepared. I am extremely glad that I am not making these decision.

Finally, it looks like we may really be getting to the endgame in Syria. There is the sense that Assad’s regime may be close to collapse. Of course, we have thought that we were there before.

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