Opinion

In Hot Pursuit of Iran, Netanyahu Doesn’t Stop for Red Lights

The prime minister rejects any and all deals with Tehran while Trump rebuffs any and all achievements by Barack Obama

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 30, 2018. REUTERS/ Amir Cohen/File Photo
\ AMIR COHEN/ REUTERS

In his dramatic presentation of the treasure trove of Iranian files captured by the Mossad, Benjamin Netanyahu threw everything but the kitchen sink. Rather than making do with a solitary gimmick, such as blueprints of Auschwitz or a deafening 45 second silence that he regularly deploys at the United Nations, Netanyahu emptied an entire arsenal of rhetorical devices: a Ted-style speech, a cupboard of CD’s, binders full of Iranian lies and even a virtual, if slightly creepy, dialogue with a big screen presentation of Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif on video. His fans described the show as a masterpiece; others deemed it a juvenile presentation worthy of a high school musical.

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Netanyahu’s most famous stunt at the 2012 General Assembly received similarly mixed reviews: His admirers raved about the primitive, black and white diagram of a bomb that seemed taken from a Wile E. Coyote cartoon, dubbing it a propaganda coup, while others ridiculed the ploy, which soon turned into a viral Internet meme. Disarmament experts, on a more serious note, claimed that Netanyahu’s gambit boomeranged: By isolating the enrichment of top-grade uranium needed for a bomb as the only criterion on which it should be judged, Netanyahu gave Iran a carte blanche to produce lower-grade but equally vital uranium to its heart’s content.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of the State of Israel, uses a diagram of a bomb to describe Iran's nuclear program while delivering his address to the 67th United Nations General Assembly meeting September 27, 2012 at the United Nations in New York. AFP PHOTO / DON EMMERT
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Netanyahu’s dramatic March 2015 appearance in Congress, seen by aficionados as Daniel in the Lion’s Den, also backfired: It effectively eliminated the small chance of convincing enough Democratic Senators to join the GOP in blocking the deal. At the time, Netanyahu was also compared to his hero Winston Churchill, as Fox News Trump-lover Sean Hannity tweeted on Monday, but most of the world seemed to view Netanyahu’s latest bomb as a dud: The Prime Minister shocked no one by proving that the Iranians were being less than honest about their past nuclear program nor did he present any proof that Tehran was violating the main restrictions imposed on it in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Despite the bells, whistles and Netanyahu’s undeniable passion, nothing much changed.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress in Washington, March 3, 2015.
Andrew Harnik/AP

It’s easy to understand Netanyahu’s excitement. After decades of hot pursuit of Iran’s malicious nuclear designs, Netanyahu is finally standing on a mountain from which he can see his promised land. He has been blessed with a new U.S. president who, like him, won’t let facts get in his way: Just as Netanyahu rebuffs any and all agreements with Iran, Donald Trump rejects any and all of Barack Obama’s achievements. Unlike others who fear regional instability of the outbreak of war, Netanyahu is convinced that the collapse of the JCPOA will create enough economic and security hardships that could debilitate the ayatollah regime and even cause it to collapse. In Netanyahu’s eyes, this is the one and only solution.

Nonetheless, the credit that Netanyahu genuinely deserves for calling the world’s attention to the Iran nuclear threat in the first place does not guarantee his infallibility. Netanyahu ignores the opinion of senior security officials in both Israel and the U.S. who view the JCPOA, despite its flaws, as infinitely preferable to the regional upheaval that could be sparked by a Trump decision to withdraw.

Astonishingly, none of his coalition partners dare challenge Netanyahu’s approach nor does he face significant criticism from an opposition terrified of him and public opinion. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that on the very day that the Knesset approves a law enabling the prime minister and defense minister to declare war all by themselves, Netanyahu revives suspicions that on Iran, as Haaretz’s Uzi Benjamin once wrote of Ariel Sharon in Lebanon, he doesn’t stop for red lights.