IS WAR WITH IRAN "UNAVOIDABLE"? by Joel Rosenberg

"If Iran continues with its programme for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack it. The sanctions are ineffective." — Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz, June 2008

Most Americans have never heard of Shaul Mofaz. But those interested in the future of the Middle East ought to take note.

Mofaz is currently Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister. On Tuesday, he announced his candidacy to lead the Kadima Party, the party of current Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Mofaz now squares off against Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Kadima’s September 17th primaries. He is behind in the internal Kadima polls, but he has been gaining. Should he win next month, he will have the chance to put together a national unity government and become Israel’s next premier, without having to face voters in a new round of national elections.

There are five things you should know about Mofaz.

First, he was born in Tehran, Iran, in 1948 before his family eventually fled to the new State of Israel when he was nine years old.

Second, he is a military man, rising to become the Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces in the late 1990s under Netanyahu, and later served as Defense Minister under Ariel Sharon.

Third, this native Farsi speaker says war with Iran appears to him "unavoidable," and he vows he will not allow the Jewish State to suffer "a second Holocaust."

Fourth, his campaign to become Kadima’s next leader — and thus potentially Israel’s next Prime Minister — essentially boils down to this: "If Iran strikes first, or if Israel must launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran, who would you rather have as commander-in-chief, a diplomat like Tzipi Livni, or a military man like me?"

Fifth, as a lifelong military leader, he is relatively new to the political arena, having been first elected to the Knesset in 2005. Yet even in this short period of time, he has been accused of flip-flopping on major political issues. As one Israeli media profile put it: "His political zigzagging was evident when he joined Kadima – a mere 48 hours after announcing to the world that the Likud was his political home forever and ever; or when he fiercely objected to the construction of the security fence – only to take charge of the operation; or when it came time to vote on the Gaza pullout – where he turned from one of the move’s most adamant opponents to one of its most enthused advocates, almost overnight."

That said, with the eyes of the nations increasingly on Israel and her neighbors, Shaul Mofaz is a man worth watching.

My colleagues and I continue to believe that there is a serious likelihood of war between Israel and Iran in the next few months. Israel is buying 90 new long-range F-16I fighter jets from the U.S. and two new submarines from Germany to add to the three that it already has. The U.S., meanwhile, is sending two additional carrier battle groups to the Persian Gulf region and is warning Iran that its patience is wearing thin.

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