What is Netanyahu thinking about?
Not about atomic bombs, for sure.
He talks about them, but just like all folks talkin’ ‘bout heaven ain’t goin’ there, he doesn’t think about them.
In 1944, after listening to the report of a brave Polish patriot who had penetrated and then escaped from a German death camp, Justice Felix Frankfurter said, “I cannot believe this.”
Not “I do not believe this,” but cannot.
It’s a common reaction when presented with evidence that is too horrible to contemplate. We see it among people when a relative or neighbor is exposed as a swindler or pedophile; among business owners when it becomes obvious that an investment has been lost.
If Netanyahu had really thought about atomic bombs in Iranian (or, say, Hamas) arsenals, then he would have a strategy to deal with that.
The broad options are few: suasion, sanctions (or a combination of both) or force.
Netanyahu says he does not believe the Iranians would abide by a negotiated agreement, and I believe him. That leaves force.
Once you have chosen force, you must choose what kind and when.
If you were to believe Netanyahu’s speeches, the time was long ago. And, in fact, force has been used, though not decisive force.
A reactor was bombed, although not in Iran (in Iraq in 1981) and the Iranian uranium concentration operation was attacked via cybersabotage (Stuxnet). Neither was more than partially effective.
It is not obvious what degree of force would be effective.
It is not true that Iran could (and has) thwarted use of another air strike by moving its centrifuges underground. Purification of uranium by gaseous diffusion requires immense amounts of electricity, and the power plants are still above ground.
But it is probably true that bombing of Iran’s facilities would cause it to disperse them, which would, probably, require repeated bombing strikes.
It seems unlikely that world opinion would allow such a campaign to continue at no cost to the campaigners.
Occupation would be effective in stopping an atomic program, but the costs would be extremely high.
In any event, and for the same reasons that an endless, intermittent bombardment campaign is not practical, it is not believable that Israel could act alone.
And this is why I am sure Netanyahu has not really thought about the bomb issue. Because if he had, he would be doing something to recruit allies; and he is doing the opposite.
In the 1920s, the Bolsheviks, without allies, had to grapple with the question of whether there could be “communism in one country.” Netanyahu (if he thinks about it, which I doubt) must wonder if there can be “Zionism in one country.”
(My answer is, probably not, not if it is surrounded by 50 million hostile Arabs, but that is a question for another day.)
There is also the flip side of the bomb question: If Iran had a bomb (or several) what could it do with it?
Atomic bombs have not been used in warfare since 1945 because (among other things) it is hard to find targets for them. Especially if the other side has them, too.
It is possible that the Iranian crazies would consider it worthwhile to blanket Israel with bombs (it would take quite a few, because even atomic bombs have small blast footprints) even if that meant one or a few atomic bombs in return -- or, even if no bombs were dropped on Iran, the condemnation of the world.
Who knows? We have people that crazy in the Republican Party in the United States (see, for example, this).
Or maybe Iran could use its bomb for terror and extortion, although that is not how India, Pakistan, Israel and (perhaps) North Korea have used theirs.
It is obvious, though, that Netanyahu has thought of bombs but not really about them. If he had, he would act differently than he has.