Let’s hope he’s right at least about nothing happening before the election, as the paranoia about Israel acting at Bush’s behest to initiate a crisis that might benefit McCain would blow as sky high as Iran’s reactors after an IAF raid.

“The Israelis have one eye on the calendar because of the pace at which the Iranians are proceeding both to develop their nuclear weapons capability and to do things like increase their defences by buying new Russian anti-aircraft systems and further harden the nuclear installations .

“They’re also obviously looking at the American election calendar. My judgement is they would not want to do anything before our election because there’s no telling what impact it could have on the election.”…

“An Obama victory would rule out military action by the Israelis because they would fear the consequences given the approach Obama has taken to foreign policy,” said Mr Bolton, who was Mr Bush’s ambassador to the UN from 2005 to 2006.

“With McCain they might still be looking at a delay. Given that time is on Iran’s side, I think the argument for military action is sooner rather than later absent some other development.”

How would Israel hitting Iran in December after Obama wins spare them the diplomatic “consequences” Bolton warns of here? Any attack after Election Day, or even before if Obama’s out to a big lead late in the race, will result in a major foreign policy crisis being foisted on him as he enters office without his having been consulted. If anything, waiting until after he’s elected but before he’s sworn in would be the supreme insult since it would look like a panic move precipitated by a total lack of confidence in the new administration to handle the Iranian threat. Which, needless to say, may be justifiable, but it’s bound to make for poisonous relations between President Obama and the Israelis. Bolton’s point, I take it, is that an Obama victory will leave Israel with the awful choice of hitting Iran at the price of (potentially) alienating the new U.S. government versus trusting the new government and risking Iran going nuclear — although if that’s true then logically they should want to act as soon as possible, election or no, since that would let them deal with the threat while also minimizing the political implications in the U.S. while we’re still four months away from the election.

Then again, if the threat is still sufficiently remote that they can afford to wait until November, presumably they can also wait until next spring. That would at least give them time to persuade Obama before risking the “consequences” of striking unilaterally and it would avoid the insult problem of Bolton’s scenario. If the attack goes well, Obama can claim credit for having helped to defend Israel; if it doesn’t, he can claim to have tried to discourage it. Question to our military readers, though: Is Israel capable of staging an attack on Iran without U.S. air/logistical support? If they literally can’t make a move without us, then they really do have to assume that their window closes on January 19, 2009 unless Obama gives them some sort of informal guarantee before he’s sworn in.

For what it’s worth, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs is headed to Israel later this week, his second visit in six months after a JCS hiatus of ten years. And here’s the obligatory link to the New York Sun’s piece on retaliation scenarios after an Israeli strike, ranging from a Hezbollah attack on U.S. soil to Shiite militias gone wild in Iraq to sabotage at the Saudi oil ports to an assault on the Fifth Fleet in the Gulf. No worries about that last one, you say? Guess again.