Is Israel about to attack Iran?

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images Drudge is linking to this story with the dramatic headline, “SUMMER SHOWDOWN: Israeli minister says alternatives to attack on Iran running out…“ The article quotes Israeli Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz as issuing an unusually blunt warning to Iran: “If Iran continues its nuclear weapons programme, we will attack it.” The thing to ...

By , a former managing editor of Foreign Policy.
594716_080606_mofaz2.jpg
594716_080606_mofaz2.jpg

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Drudge is linking to this story with the dramatic headline, “SUMMER SHOWDOWN: Israeli minister says alternatives to attack on Iran running out…

The article quotes Israeli Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz as issuing an unusually blunt warning to Iran: “If Iran continues its nuclear weapons programme, we will attack it.”

The thing to remember about Israeli politics is that it’s a parliamentary system. So, the ministers don’t serve “at the pleasure of the president”; they’re independent politicians with their own bases of support, even if they hail from the same political party as the prime minister.

So, this is not the same thing as U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters (who, incidentally, has a blog called “Fast Lane“) issuing a press release. We can safely presume that Peters speaks for the Bush administration.

But the hawkish Mofaz, a former defense minister and military chief of staff, doesn’t necessarily speak for the Israeli government. He’s probably ramping things up now that he sees a chance to take Ehud Olmert’s job, and angling to outmaneuver Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, his chief rival within the Kadima Party. Mofaz is playing politics here, not explaining policy. Still, I would advise the folks in Tehran not to take Mofaz’s threat lightly.

UPDATE: Olmert’s spokesman distances the prime minister from Mofaz’s comments.

Blake Hounshell is a former managing editor of Foreign Policy.

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