A common definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over while expecting different results each time. That is a good definition of Israeli-Arab relations. Katz, enamored of the Israeli armed forces, writes hagiographically about the Israeli strike on the Syrian nuclear plant in 2007. Justification for this act of war was the assumption that a nuclear power plant -- Israel has several in addition to nuclear weapons -- could only be used to create the material for nuclear weapons, the presence of which Israel assumed could only be an existential threat to their country. **
There is an assumption that some countries act responsibly when it comes to nuclear weapons and others are not. Israel, while never admitting publicly it has nuclear weapons, clearly does, yet cannot seem to understand why that knowledge would not encourage hostile neighbors to want the same. Another assumption is that democracies will always act more sensibly than authoritarian governments. Recent events in the United States reveal just how fragile that assumption is. It's an assumption Plato warned about a millennia ago when he foresaw the seeds of its own destruction built into democratic governments.
Israel has determined (at least the more recent governments) that countries in the Middle East will not (except for itself) be permitted to have nuclear weapons nor nuclear power plants that might be used to create the seeds of a nuclear weapons program. They see it as an existential threat. Then again, they see almost everything they don't like as an existential threat.
From his extensive interviews with the decision-makers, advisers and planners — American and Israeli — Katz, the editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post, has written a gripping story of the Sept. 6, 2007 destruction of a secret, nearly completed al-Kabar nuclear reactor in Syria. knowledge of which was confirmed only in March of 2018. The Syrian strike at al-Kabar was not the first time the Israelis felt compelled to act. On June 7, 1981, the IAF destroyed a nuclear reactor in Osirak, Iraq, which was, at the time, a nation ruled by Saddam Hussein, another dictator willing to use chemical weapons.
A fascinating portion of the book is devoted to the discussions within the Bush administration on the proper response to the intelligence that had been shared by Israel about the construction of a reactor in Syria. It was the hawks (Cheney et al) v diplomats (Rice eta al.) each with valid concerns and suspecting different outcomes. What was the possibility of a wider war? What would be the reaction of the Russians? Would this help or hurt the Iranians? Was the intelligence legitimate. It was an example of how government should work, but often doesn't.
Cheney, ever the hawk and advocate of preemptive strikes, whatever the issue, was alone in thinking the U.S. should bomb the site. Everyone else in the Cabinet thought otherwise. The Iraq war, begun on faulty intelligence, was not going well and the feeling was that each administration gets just one war; trying to conduct two would lead to disaster. A more nuanced role proposed by a few was that the facility should be destroyed, but better that Israel should do the bombing. It would reinforce the view that Israel had rebounded from the Lebanese debacle and help issue a warning that Israel could handle its own affairs and protection and was not the minor stepchild of the U.S.
The author claims at the end of the book that it was less about the strike than decision-making. That's certainly true. But what a messy process, indeed, influenced less by reality than perceptions, ideology, religion, and politics.
**It was just learned that Syria fired a missile that landed perilously close to an Israeli nuclear plant in April 2021. Israeli responded with a retaliatory strike. Agence France has reported that Israel is suspected to have between 100 and 200 nuclear weapons.