The anticipation over the prime minister's address on Sunday stems from the curiosity about how he will respond to the challenges posed by U.S. President Barack Obama regarding the settlements and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Benjamin Netanyahu tends to deal with this challenge by emphasizing the Iranian threat, among others. Will he stick to his current positions, or finally present a turning point regarding issues including Iran?
Netanyahu has had somewhat of a fixation with Iran. This is often presented as irresponsible: Instead of trying to calm the public, he continuously feeds its fears. In an unnecessary series of statements the prime minister has repeatedly threatened Iran's leaders, while hinting that Israel will have no choice but to strike if they do not stop trying to acquire nuclear weapons.
The other side of the threat is the Holocaust motif: On Holocaust Memorial Day, for example, Netanyahu said, "We will not allow Holocaust deniers to carry out a second Holocaust against the Jewish people."
Reality, of course, is a lot more complicated. Most countries do not want Iran to have an atomic bomb. The international community is making great efforts - even though they may not be effective enough - to divert the Ayatollahs' regime from its nuclear ambitions. This is the clear policy of the five permanent Security Council members, including China and Russia.
Obama has reiterated this policy at every opportunity. He believes that through dialogue with Iran, he can achieve what his predecessor George W. Bush could not through threats. Many in Israel doubt whether this approach can succeed, but nonetheless, it should be given a chance.
But even if Iran does not budge, it is not the end of the world. It certainly does not mean a second Holocaust is looming. First, Iran may not ultimately build a nuclear weapon. A scenario no less plausible is that it will adopt a "nuclear option," which can be described as "a bomb in the basement," or the "Japanese model."
This means a country has the know-how, technology and materials for building a bomb, without actually building it. No small number of countries are capable of assembling a nuclear bomb, given a short period of time (several months to a few years).
Second, even if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it is hard to believe it will use them, or even threaten to use them. Its leaders know the world will not allow them to do so, and they also have read the reports in foreign publications that state Israel has a second-strike capability that could destroy Iran. Even if the Iranian leadership is Shi'ite, it is not suicidal.
There is no reason for indifference: Israel, like the Arab world, has cause for concern. But the prime minister needs to be the last person fueling panic. His statements may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Precisely because of them, citizens may tell themselves: If he speaks this way, he must know what he is talking about, and that means there is cause for serious concern.
The prime minister should adopt the policy of his predecessors, especially Ariel Sharon - he should lower Israel's profile and cease making the sort of statements he has been making.
Instead, he should seek to calm the people and speak confidently about the country's strength and future, and not spread panic and hysteria.
Hopefully, this will be one of his messages on Sunday.
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