What Israel must do to stop the Iranian nuclear program

So where do we stand on Iran? Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was right in addressing the intolerable gap between the rhetoric of Benjamin Netanyahu’s former government and its actions.

Israel’s policy towards Iran since signing the nuclear deal in 2015 has been nothing but a failure due to the ineptitude and dangerous illusions of its leader.

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Ehud Barak in the Ynet studio

Ehud Barak

(Photo: Yaron Berner)

Netanyahu opted for a clash with the administration of former US President Barak Obama as he missed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bolster Israel’s military strength, which would have enabled the IDF to take independent action against Iran’s nuclear program.

In 2018, Netanyahu urged another former US leader, Donald Trump, to withdraw from the deal, allowing the Iranians to accelerate their onslaught on a nuclear threshold while blaming the US for violating the deal.

Worst of all, Netanyahu has failed to work out a joint Israeli and American “Plan B” to reset Iran’s nuclear program by many years – should Tehran choose to cross the nuclear threshold.

Iran is a bitter enemy eager to achieve its goals, but the dangerous circumstances Israel finds itself in are Netanyahu’s fault.

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Benjamin Netanyahu speech at the Hao General AssemblyBenjamin Netanyahu speech at the Hao General Assembly

Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the UN on Iran in 2018

(Photo: AFP)

Netanyahu and his mouthpieces in the press will soon claim that Iran has given in to the strong leadership of Trump and Netanyahu, but given the weak administration of current US President Joe Biden and Bennett’s coalition, Tehran is encouraged to move forward with its nuclear ambitions .

The gravity of the situation became clear with the realization that an effective military operation against Iran’s nuclear targets requires years of preparation and massive help from the Americans.

Now Iran is months away from becoming an unstoppable nuclear emerging nation should it choose to produce a nuclear weapon.

This new reality requires sober appraisal and practical decisions – not empty rhetoric that may impress some in Israel but carries no weight in Iran or among world powers striving to reach an agreement with the Islamic Republic.

The talks in Vienna could continue without concrete results, so that the Iranians can continue on their way. They can even stall completely.

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Nuclear talks in ViennaNuclear talks in Vienna

World powers are negotiating with Iran to return to the 2015 nuclear deal

(Photo: Reuters)

I use the term “nuclear emerging market” because I don’t think Iran has any interest in going beyond that. So they can enjoy their success without having to publicly admit violations of the 2015 deal.

They will do that if they can enrich uranium to 90%, enough to make one to three nuclear weapons. You will then be two years away from becoming a nuclear state.

But at that point the UN inspectors will no longer be able to ensure that the Islamic State is not covertly heading towards this goal.

Past experience with North Korea and Pakistan showed us that both countries had pushed ahead with their nuclear program further than previously assumed, from the eyes of the UN inspectors.

Iran seeks to have nuclear weapons and not use them against the US, Israel or any other neighboring nation, just as North Korea has no intention of using them against its neighbor to the south.

The nuclear capability would be there to secure the future of the regime and its freedom of action. The Iranian ayatollahs are extreme in their ideology, but they are not fools. They want to consolidate their hegemony in the region, but not take their nation back to the Stone Age.

Once they become a nuclear emerging state, they enjoy an improved position and enjoy immunity from military aggression against them.

Iran will then assume that it has achieved a strategic equilibrium with Israel and managed to impose its will on the rest of the world.

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Tehran's parliament Ibrahim Raisi swears - in ceremony for the President of Iran Tehran's parliament Ibrahim Raisi swears - in ceremony for the President of Iran

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi

(Photo: AFP)

The Iranians speak and think of Israel as an aberration in the Middle East that will eventually disappear under pressure from its opponents, surrounded by a ring of hostility and readiness to fight, coupled with a weakening from within.

Tehran’s capabilities are not to be underestimated. Nor should their motivation to see Israel destroyed be great enough, but Israel’s capabilities are great and stronger than Iran or any other enemy.

Israel can cooperate with the Sunni Arab states and, if acted wisely, can still count on US support

It is also considered a nuclear state and, according to foreign media reports, has invested heavily in this capability in the event that nuclear weapons are imported into the region.

Meanwhile, the US is turning its geopolitical attention to China and withdrawing from the Middle East.

That policy shift started with Obama, increased under Trump, and becomes a practice under Biden. America cannot be made to change this stance in the near future, nor can it be made to attack Iran militarily in order to distance it from its nuclear target.

It is unclear whether the US and Israel even have a plan to this end, and that is at the core of Netanyahu’s historical failure.

But Israel must make the best of a bad situation, and strong cooperation with Washington is urgently needed to achieve common goals, such as preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear threshold state.

This is no time for public disagreement and a mutual guilt game that will be nothing more than an embarrassment and not allow for a sober political position backed by military or other means.

This cooperation includes the exchange of information, an agreement on situations that require an Israeli or American response, as well as concrete preparation for action should such scenarios arise.

There needs to be an agreement on military aid to strengthen Israel’s ability to act independently against Iran and the establishment of a multi-system defense mechanism to protect Israel from rocket fire, including the advanced laser-based David’s Sling – a joint Israeli and American missile defense system.

In an atmosphere of mutual trust between Jerusalem and Washington, the US will be interested in joint exercises not least because such military capabilities can later be used in the Chinese arena if they are needed there.

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Lieutenant Noy Feigenbaum, 22, was the only Air Force representative and the youngest participant in the listening room that fired Iron Dome missiles and David Sling (wand)Lieutenant Noy Feigenbaum, 22, was the only Air Force representative and the youngest participant in the listening room that fired Iron Dome missiles and David Sling (wand)

David’s Sling missile defense system

(Photo: Unit of the IDF spokesman)

A nuclear Iran – and even as a nuclear threshold state – would be a cardinal change for the worst for Israel, but it does not pose an immediate existential threat.

Nothing should divert Israel from its goal of a nuclear Iran, but it also needs to have a realistic view of reality and an understanding that the mistakes of our leaders take their toll.

The real and immediate danger is a nuclear race starting in the region. After Iran gains nuclear capabilities, Turkey will try to follow suit, as will Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Within a decade, a third of the world’s dictatorships will have the same goal.

That would put a nuclear bomb in the hands of terrorists and could endanger the world as a whole, not just Israel, and this scenario must be prepared for as well.

Courage and empty rhetoric are not the way to go and will only weaken Israel and minimize its ability to defend itself.

We must all expect more from this “coalition of change”.

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