Israel’s Opposition to Iran Nuclear Deal Will Isolate It, Think Tank Says

Institute for National Security Studies' annual report also cites domestic polarization and failure to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as major strategic threats to Israel

Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich
נציגי איראן (מימין) והאיחוד האירופי (משמאל) בפגישה שמטרתה להחיות את הסכם הגרעין בווינה, בדצמבר
נציגי איראן (מימין) והאיחוד האירופי (משמאל) בפגישה שמטרתה להחיות את הסכם הגרעין בווינה, בדצמברCredit: Handout / EU DELEGATION IN VIENN
Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich

Israeli opposition to a nuclear deal between Iran and the world powers will leave Israel isolated, with military action its only remaining tool for preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, according to an Israeli think tank’s annual report.

In its “Strategic Survey for Israel 2022,” released Monday, Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) said Iran has made its greatest strides toward building a nuclear bomb since the U.S. withdrew from the agreement. For Iran, said INSS, "This progress reinforces the temptation not to return to the nuclear agreement absent considerable rewards, and it is doubtful the U.S. administration has the ability or desire to grant them.”

The survey focused on three key threats to Israeli security: the domestic, Iranian and Palestinian arenas. INSS researchers noted that, “Departing from the assessment of previous years, in 2022 the three central threats are equal in severity and the main challenge is pursuing an integrated way of coping with all three simultaneously.” This is the second consecutive year that INSS has pointed to Israel’s domestic arena as a threat to its security.

Iran, wrote the researchers, represents “the most serious external threat to Israel, first and foremost due to its quest to achieve military nuclear capability.” The authors added that Iran “continues to strive to become a 'nuclear threshold' country,” noting that they believe it already possesses “all capabilities required for a nuclear-weapon breakthrough within a matter of weeks.” They noted Israel’s growing need for "increased coordination and a special relationship with the United States, regardless of whether agreement is reached between Iran and the world powers on its nuclear program.”

The researchers say Iran has not abandoned its attempts to strengthen its footholds in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, “including its efforts to surround Israel with the threat of attack, especially through its precision missile project for Shi'ite group Hezbollah in Lebanon and for its proxies in Syria. Apart from thousands of missiles and rockets, Iran is equipping its proxies with thousands of unmanned aerial vehicles [drones] with ranges that enable them to penetrate deep into Israeli airspace from all fronts.”

Concerning Israel's domestic arena, the authors pointed to “polarization, rifts, tensions, and extremism in addition to the erosion of trust in government institutions,” that pose a real threat to Israel’s social cohesion and national security. The researchers warned politicians of a need to reorder national priorities in order to focus on “restoring government authority within the country and healing the rifts between disparate groups in [Israeli] society.”

With regard to the Palestinians, the authors argue that this “is not a secondary arena that can be contained by empty delusions about ‘limiting the conflict.’" The authors assess that "The absence of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict poses a serious threat to Israel’s identity as a Jewish democratic state" together with a serious challenge that may lead to "a lack of functioning and governance on the part of the Palestinian Authority" and could "challenge Israel’s international political and legal standing.”

The report finds that the security situation in the West Bank is “nearing a boiling point due to the weakness of the Palestinian Authority in the face of united opposition from various factions and street gangs.” The situation is still under control, mainly due to Israel’s maintenance of security cooperation with the Palestinians. However, the researchers say, “The PA has been weakened and could cease to function, while the growing frustration of the younger generation of Palestinians drives them to think in terms of a 'one-state' idea.”

INSS warns that settler violence against Palestinians and left-wing activists, discussion of annexation of the West Bank on the Israeli side, and continued construction in the West Bank settlements have international implications: "growing criticism of Israel that works to thwart the chances of [a two-state] solution, and intensifies the danger of legal moves against Israel and its definition as an apartheid state.”

With regard to the international arena, the report says "Israel will have to choose sides in the growing power struggle between the United States and China, and prepare for a range of extreme events due to climate change, frequent economic crises, changes in norms in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and increasing concerns over the resilience of liberal democracies.” Israel’s dependence on U.S. support persists, “but the aid that Washington can give Israel is being eroded by internal U.S. polarization and as its attention is directed to its domestic issues and to the struggle with China, necessarily at the expense of its engagement with the Middle East. Against this backdrop, the U.S. administration is less willing to pay close attention to the interests and concerns of Israel, whether they regard Iran or the Palestinians."

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