If Israel launches an attack on Iran, its timing, scope, operational means, allies, even its objectives will be based on surprise and deception. The military commanders are working day and night on the details and on intelligence. The speculations of journalists, experts and armchair generals are by definition wrong. No journalist or expert could have envisaged a painting of a master before it was actually painted. One can simulate battles in mind or play a computer game, but the result would be similar to painting, say, Mona Lisa before is was actually painted, by computer program. The predictions in the press and on the web are worthless. The fact that they are repeated several times a day by former Generals and lobbyists do not make them more valuable.
If Israel believes that Iran by itself or through its terror allies would use nuclear weapons against the Jewish State and if it believes it has the means to destroy such weapons before they are fully developed, the decision is pretty straightforward. One can presume that the attack will take place before “it's too late”. In these circumstances the opinion of the US, or international community are of little consequence. The debate whether Iran is rational or not is also not important. Nobody is 100 percent rational. If Iran is, say, only 10 percent irrational, Israel cannot take the chance of its existence. Furthermore, the US fully agrees that Israel has the right to destroy Iran's nuclear capability and do so "it is too late." This stance stems not only from logic, friendship and political expedience but also from the belief that it is helpful in forthcoming diplomacy with the clerics.
Israel and the US both would prefer a solution without military attack. There is, however, a built-in difference of opinion between the two countries, which has nothing to do with personalities, love and hate and politics. Israel is single minded, it wants immediate harsh sanctions. The US is a powerful empire with many interests, which Israel is both unwilling and unable to consider. Considerations of world economy, of price of oil, of relations with allies and rivals such as China and Russia make US action slower than Israel would expect. The size of the countries, the manner of decision making are different too. Those differences are well known to both sides, and both of them are trying to pressure one another in more or less amicable way. Unnamed officials leak about difficulties of military attack, about chaos, about oil prices and many other things which create public opinion against military attack by Israel. On the other hand, Israel is not ashamed to mention refusal to bomb Auschwitz, to hint about elections, to mobilize its friends and more. At this stage the US is asking Israel for two months more for engagement with Iran and for letting the sanctions work.
The third party is Iran. Rational or not, nobody in the West knows exactly what its goals are. The system there is based on a sort of uneasy balance between the clerics and middle class. The Arab revolt, whatever its outcome is, weakened the clerics, because Islam was not the agent of change in removal of the old rulers. The revolt in Syria which is going on in spite of Hezbollah and Iran supporting Assad, strengthens the dormant middle class in Iran. Are nuclear weapons a key for survival of the clerics as rulers? Are the sanctions hurting? Is it possible to reach an accommodation with the US? Nobody knows for sure, perhaps event the clerics do not. As in many negotiations each party tries to picture itself as wearing the shoes of the other and imagining what it would do if the roles are reversed; not necessarily the best engagement strategy but quite natural, in particular when information is scant. If the roles were reversed the clerics would not have negotiated anything with a country which is hundred times weaker. Similarly, Americans think that Iranians behave as the Americans would have in their place. The most damaging characteristic of US foreign policy is the belief that the whole world is Main Street America. Enter more players, Europe, Russia, China, Turkey, and the process becomes even slower. The chance of doing something before “it is too late,” is almost non existent, except if the biting effect of the sanctions increases dramatically, or there is another major change in the region, for instance fall of Assad.
The final question is how Iran is reading the Israeli threat. Strange as it is, if Iran concludes that the threat is becoming real and imminent it will give in and stop, at least for a while, development of nukes. The old adage si vis pacem, para bellum stands.