The surprise announcement overnight that Prime Minister Netanyahu reached a coalition agreement with the centrist Kadima Party, thus averting unpredictable Knesset elections in early September, must be understood in the context of the still-looming threat of a military confrontation with Iran. In the weeks leading up to the deal, Netanyahu had come under merciless attack from all corners of the Israeli military/intelligence establishment. He was accused by former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin of being a "messianic" fanatic who could not be trusted to decide on issues of war and peace. His own IDF Chief of Staff, General Benny Gantz, gave an interview to Haaretz in which he endorsed the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Iran was not pursuing a nuclear bomb at the present time, and that Iranian leaders were "rational" and would abandon a nuclear weapon in order to avert military attack. General Gantz did not seek prior authorization from either Bibi or Defense Minister Barak before granting the interview.
Netanyahu knew that it was only a matter of time before the Israeli security institutions would move to dump him--regardless of his strong approval rating with the Israeli electorate. Bibi chose wisely to accept a grand coalition with Kadima, thus assuring that he is likely to remain in office through to October 2013, when Knesset elections are mandated. In return for keeping his job--without elections--Bibi has agreed that Israel will not launch a unilateral military attack on Iran for the time being. The Netanyahu-led coalition government and the Shaul Mofaz-led Kadima share an understanding that Iran can never be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon. They agree that prevention is the only acceptable policy. No containment of a nuclear-armed Iran is acceptable. For the time being, this is also the policy of the Obama Administration in Washington. It will be the job of incoming Deputy Prime Minister Mofaz to guarantee that there is no change in the US policy. For the time being, barring a breakdown of the coalition agreement, Israel will not launch unilateral military strikes on Iran. This will satisfy a deal struck between Bibi and Obama in Washington in March. Until today's coalition agreement between Likud and Kadima, no one in Israel or the United States had any confidence that Netanyahu and Barak would keep their word and wait until after the November elections in the United States. Any military action against Iran will be postponed--at least until after the P5+1 talks have fully run their course. At this moment, there is a reasonable chance that Iran will accept a viable agreement sometime during the next several round of talks. War--at least a war triggered by Israel attacking Iran--can still be averted altogether.
Under any circumstances, Israel will closely coordinate whatever action they take with Washington. There will be no Israeli strike on Iran for the foreseeable future, and no Israeli strike on Iran without first getting an OK and pledge of coordination from Washington. The danger of an Israeli flight-forward triggering an out of control regional or global confrontation has been greatly reduced. Since we are dealing with human beings, nothing can be absolutely ruled out. But the prospect of a big war has been, for now, significantly reduced on the Israel-Iran front.
There are other crises that now should be given much greater attention, including possible efforts from Europe to preemptively sabotage the upcoming Baghdad P5+1 talks. The European Union's representative at a now ongoing Non-Proliferation Treaty conference in Vienna, Austria has declared that Iran must suspend all enrichment activities as a precondition for the P5+1 talks. If that is actually the position of the EU, that can be a deal breaker. Russia has also threatened to take preemptive action against the US-NATO missile defense system, being put in place in Europe, unless Russia gets written assurances and a structure of verification, that the target is not Russia's strategic nuclear arsenal. These matters must be handled by effective diplomacy, something that is usually lacking in the US and Europe today.
Nevertheless, with Bibi's deal with Kadima and the Israeli security establishment, the prospect of an Israeli flight foward into needless and open-ended war in the Persian Gulf and beyond, dragging in the United States, has been pushed back. And that is good news.