On guard: an Israeli soldier in northern Israel, April 2016.
Ronen Zvulun / REUTERS

Soon after Benjamin Netanyahu began his second term as Israel’s prime minister in March 2009, he ordered the country’s military to develop a plan for a unilateral military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The air force and the intelligence branch went to work immediately; according to Ehud Olmert, Netanyahu’s predecessor, the preparations alone would ultimately cost the country nearly $3 billion.

Israel never carried out the attack, of course, and in retrospect, Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, then Israel’s defense minister, may never have seriously considered launching one. But U.S. President Barack Obama took the threat seriously

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