Paul Greenberg

Hillel Halkin, the prolific commentator on all things Israeli, let the cat out of the bag - make that the tiger - in the current issue of Commentary.

In a dispatch that would have made Jeremiah look like a cock-eyed optimist, Mr. Halkin went down the list of existential threats facing the Jewish state and the conclusion was inescapable:

Israel is doomed.

By the end of his article - "If Israel Ceased to Exist" - it's clear there's not much "if" about it.

In addition to all the usual clear and increasingly present dangers to Israel's existence, there now looms Iran's steadily developing nuclear program. Iran's president, the incessant Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has made his policy toward Israel perfectly clear: Wipe it off the map.

And soon enough, if the world keeps dithering, he'll have the nuclear means to do it. Let this much be said for Iran's firebrand-in-chief: He's an open book, namely Mein Kampf.

But won't Israel's nuclear arsenal deter him?

Not bloody likely. To quote Bernard Lewis, who's spent a lifetime or two immersed in the study of the Middle East: "MAD, mutual assured destruction, (worked) right through the cold war. Both sides had nuclear weapons. Neither side used them, because both sides knew the other would retaliate in kind. This will not work with a religious fanatic (like Iran's Ahmedinejad). For him, mutual assured destruction is not a deterrent, it is an inducement." A radioactive Middle East would be the fulfillment of his apocalyptic vision.

Of course there have been other, more reasonable voices out of Teheran. To quote the nuclear calculus of the Ayatollah Rafsanjani: "If the day comes when the world of Islam is equipped with the arms Israel has in (its) possession, application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel, but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world."

That is, millions might be vaporized elsewhere, but it would be worth it to obliterate the Jewish state.

And that's an Iranian moderate speaking.

Nor did Mr. Halkin, a thorough type, neglect to mention other threats to Israel's continued existence. For example:

-The wall the Israelis built to ward off suicide attacks may have proven remarkably effective, but what happens once a terrorist outfit gets its hand on a nuclear bomb? It need only sneak one into Israel one time and it's The End.

-Or the Arab states surrounding Israel could once again achieve a preponderance of power and threaten Israel's existence, just as they did in 1948, in 1967, in 1973. They only have to win one war to end the whole, unrealistic Zionist experiment.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.