Opinion: Israel must advance a regional alliance with Sunni nations who share concerns over Iran’s nuclear program and end misleading claims of a military option, while being excluded from decisions made during crucial talks in Vienna
Pinhata covered by an Israeli flag during a parade in Iran (Photo: AP)
One side effect of the Iranian nuclear threat when it comes to Israel is that it is becoming increasingly hard to differentiate between valid concerns for the future security of our country and matters of internal politics.
The blame lies of course with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who amalgamated Iran’s nuclear ambitions and his confrontational policies towards the United States into his political campaigns.
But Netanyahu’s opponents cannot claim innocence in that respect. Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who attacked Netanyahu in an opinion piece he wrote for Ynet on Sunday over his Iran policies, served as defense minister in Netanyahu’s cabinet in 2012 when the latter appeared before the U.S. Congress to publicly air his grievances with the Obama administration.
Following that appearance, Israel’s valid concerns were ignored when the 2015 nuclear deal was signed between world powers and the Islamic Republic.
Since the formation of the new government last June, Israeli officials repeated their claim that Netanyahu left nothing but ruin when it comes to the country’s ability to respond militarily to the Iranian threat.
The validity of those claims notwithstanding, most members of the current cabinet served under Netanyahu in some capacity and can hardly argue that they had no input into the policies made. Instead, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other government officials have been making inexplicable and misleading statements.
In a rare appearance last week, Mossad chief David Barnea said he vows Iran will never possess a nuclear weapon. Such a statement would not have been made without the knowledge – if not the urging – of the prime minister.
Reports of a five-billion-shekel addition to the military budget that is earmarked for the development of a military option against Iran is also misleading and a regurgitation of earlier procurement decisions – some irrelevant when it comes to the Iranian issue – by the defense establishment as part of their long-term planning.
Meanwhile, Israel has failed to procure the means to prepare an effective response should one be needed.
Barak was not wrong when he said that a nuclear Iran will not spell the end of the Zionist dream. It will however introduce an arms race into the region and change the Middle East for the worst as our bitter foe will be empowered as never before and immune from military action against it.
The discussion over how many bunker busting bombs Israel will possess or whether it can refuel its attack aircraft on their long way to Iran, in case of an Israeli strike, lends to a narrow perspective on the crisis and serves those who wish to perpetuate the illusion that action is being taken and that there is a military solution to all things.
The truth is that not everything has to be decided militarily and shouted from the rooftops. The United States had set back Iran’s nuclear program when it invaded Iraq in 2003, while the governments of Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert carried out covert operations against Iranian nuclear scientists and facilities and were able to delay uranium enrichment for years.
Once Netanyahu assumed office in 2009, he began speaking publicly about a definitive solution – or as then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon said – make the ayatollahs choose between a bomb or their continues hold on power.
Iran is an enormous country with the historic vision of itself as a regional power. It borders run from Pakistan – a nuclear country – to Turkey.
Though oppressive, its regime is deeply rooted and is motivated by a belief that as the only Shi’ite regime in the world, it is under threat, and sees itself responsible for Shi’ites everywhere. Although it views Israel as an invader into the Middle East, it is looking at the region through a wider scope. With a regime like that, Israel should aspire to find a balance, not talk about toppling it.
The maximum pressure campaign on Iran, egged on by Israel during the administration of former President Donald Trump, did not succeed in bringing the Islamic Republic to its knees.
And the military actions taken by Israel to stop Iranian entrenchment in the region, also yielded no results.
While Israel basked in its ability to drop bombs, the Iranian leadership was steadfast in its policies and demands, resulting in Jerusalem once again being distanced from the halls where decision were being made.
Israel’s position is not a consideration in the nuclear talks and the Biden administration makes no secret of that fact.
It is time to stop making idle threats. Israel must work towards a regional alliance with the Sunni Arab nations that share its concerns over a nuclear Iran.
Some of those potential partners, for lack of a visible option, are already making overtures towards Tehran.
The government should continue to work quietly against Iran and its interests in all fields of operation, leaving an all-out military confrontation as a last resort even if such actions provide politicly advantageous headlines.