“For both Prime Minister Netanyahu and the hawks in Congress, mostly Republican, the primary goal is to undermine any potential negotiation that might settle whatever issue there is with Iran. They have a common interest in ensuring there is no regional force that can serve as any kind of deterrent to Israeli and U.S. violence, the major violence in the region.” – Noam Chomsky
With preliminary agreements reached, nuclear talks with Iran seem to be making moves in the right direction (that is, if you prefer diplomacy over unnecessary use of force).
Although it appears that the populations of both Iran and the United States are in favor of a deal that would lift sanctions on Iran, bring them back into the international community (in some sense), and quell their ability to develop a nuclear weapon, elites, both in the US and in Israel, continue to voice their opposition to such a deal.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “heckles from the sidelines,” claiming that a nuclear deal with Iran would pave the way for Iran’s development of a weapon which would then, he asserts, be used to bring about the destruction of Israel.
Unfortunately for Mr. Netanyahu, Israeli intelligence offers virtually no support for his claims, and they do not share his view of Iran as an immediate existential threat.
Additionally, as many others have observed, one has to try very hard to take seriously any “facts” that spill from the mouth of Netanyahu: It is of no small significance that he has been warning that Iran is a year away from developing a nuclear weapon…for a decade.
Rachel Shabi observes that the scaremongering, though as rampant as ever, has been relatively unsuccessful: “The reality is that the depiction of Iran as a great existential threat hasn’t terrified Israelis in the way that its right-wing government might have hoped.”
She continues, writing,
That might well be because Israel’s security chiefs – often perceived as more credible and trustworthy than the nation’s politicians – have repeatedly disagreed with Netanyahu’s position on Iran.
So it is interesting and revealing to investigate the question: Why does Netanyahu so virulently oppose diplomacy with Iran? Is Iran really a serious threat to the “very survival” of Israel, as Netanyahu and the hawks in the U.S. government suggest?
The latter question was answered by Israeli expert on Iran, Haggai Ram: “the answer is a sweeping and unequivocal no.”
Ram continues when challenged on this point:
To say Iran poses an existential threat to Israel is wrong, if not a deception. Israel has bigger and more dangerous enemies. Pakistani nukes, for example, worry me personally much more than Iranian nukes. Pakistan is an unstable country. It is fertile ground for the growth of Islamic radicals….
The whole Iranian issue, be it with Ariel Sharon, Barak or Benjamin Netanyahu, is meant in the end to distract attention from Israel’s central problem – the occupation and the defense budget.
Al Jazeera contends in a recent piece that Israel’s primary reason for opposing any diplomacy between Iran and the United States is similar to that of Saudi Arabia, namely,
it is Iran’s competitive regional status and rising power that concerns [Netanyahu] the most, not the fantasy of an existential threat.
It is the regional balance of power, not the bomb. Even dismantling Iran’s civilian programme entirely does not satisfy Netanyahu’s appetite; it is the Iranian “policies”, “behaviour” and “state” that he wants eliminated.
Further, Iran’s “competitive regional status” would, as Noam Chomsky observed in an interview with Democracy Now!, act as a “deterrent” to “regular violence and aggression” committed by Israel.
An Iran that is integrated into the international scene becomes a nation which is more likely to thrive, and is therefore a threat to Israeli hegemony in the Middle East.
There is no doubt that there are severe internal problems that the Iranian government must address, and hopefully the lifting of economic sanctions can contribute to genuine efforts of reform by the young Iranian population.
Once again, it seems that independence is the problem. Iran is not a basketcase, therefore they are, by definition, a roadblock to Israeli regional dominance.
Israel has an historical habit of preferring expansion over peace, dominance over security, much like the United States. Only time will tell if this trend can be reversed, and this reversal is undoubtedly necessary for the safety of all parties involved.