On Iran, Israel Uses a Different Clock Than U.S.

When U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said yesterday that bombing Iranian nuclear facilities would set back the Iranian program only three years, he meant to convey to the action-ready faction within the Israeli government that an attack wouldn't be worthwhile. To the Israeli ear, however, three years sounded sweet.
On this issue, time is measured differently in Washington than in Jerusalem, given that a nuclear-armed Iran could menace the U.S. but obliterate Israel. The Israeli government is divided on whether to attack because of disagreements over the cost-benefit balance. According to an Israeli security establishment insider, however, the benefits discussion has been based on an assumption that an Israeli raid would turn the clock back on the Iranian effort by "a minimum of two years." The calculation is that two years would give the Iranians time to consider whether it would be wise to rebuild their program.
If the Obama administration wants to persuade the Israelis to rule out a strike on Iran, it would be wise to use arguments that actually count with them.

(Lisa Beyer is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board.)