Iran Is on Its Way to Become a Great Power, and Israel Is Left With the Crumbs

Iran and Israel could have been twins, if they weren't sworn enemies, but now that the former has cast away its 'irrational country' mantle, Israel will have to figure out how to undergo its own makeover.

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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Iranian women flash the v sign for victory during celebration in northern Tehran on July 14, 2015.Credit: AFP
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

Iran is a country that is armed to the teeth. It has missiles, a strong army and the Revolutionary Guard. It is involved in almost every regional conflict, it has oil, ayatollahs who safeguard morality and the principles of the revolution, liberals who are unable to break into the political arena. It also has experts who don’t wear turbans, scientists who have developed high-tech, excellent cinema and outstanding surgeons who have turned it into a capital of cosmetic surgery.

About 1,500 kilometers away there is a country that under different circumstances could have signed a twin-country alliance with it. Israel, like Iran, is armed to the teeth; it also, according to foreign sources, has nuclear bombs; it has high-tech experts, mischievous cinema and excellent plastic surgery. In Israel, too, the liberals – a euphemism for the left – skate on the walls of the political arena without leaving a scratch, and the country abounds with ayatollahs whose eyes are peeled for every deviation from values, morality and religion.

Iran severed itself from the world; Israel is rushing towards the same goal. Until this week both proudly bore the title “irrational countries” – in other words, countries whose political logic draws its power from transcendental worlds, from divine commandments that nobody is allowed to question. The signing of the nuclear agreement has left Israel alone in the battle to promote the interests of holy warriors.

Iran will not become a likable country overnight, and its regime will not stop lifting its eyes to the heavens for advice, but from now on that’s the private business of the country and its 80 million citizens. Because the world has succeeded in closing a deal with Iran that meets the world’s interests. The world may not believe Iran, but it believes in agreements with Iran. The world may be horrified by its attitude towards human rights – but in terms of realpolitik, the Islamic Republic has delivered the goods.

The threatening choice that Iran offered the great powers was this: nuclearization or a military offensive that is liable to develop into a world war. Israel is largely responsible for this dilemma, because it confronted the international community with a serious problem: Who should be believed? Whom should we fear more – Iranian nuclear technology that is liable to develop a bomb, or Israeli lunacy that will ignite a war with it?

The twins threatened the world. Until the agreement came and separated them. There is no question that Iran had strengthened Israel’s status in the world, no less than Israel had contributed to Iran’s image as a regional King Kong.

Now Iran will become a regional and international great power, and Israel can only continue to howl at the moon. Iran will join the corridors of the international aristocracy, determine world oil prices and be a strategic partner in the war against the Islamic State (ISIS). Israel, on the other hand, will have to make do with crumbs: Whether or not to lift the closure against Gaza, whether or not to reach an agreement with Hamas, how many missiles Hezbollah really has and how many settlements to expand or establish.

But Israel’s genuine problem is far more serious. The negotiations with Iran overshadowed everything happening in the region and fostered an illusion in Israel that anything is permissible, especially spitting in the face of the president of the United States and insulting the American people who elected him. But while Israel is still barking at Barack Obama, it doesn’t realize that it remains alone. For a moment it seemed to Israel that it was safeguarded by Saudi Arabia and its friends in an alliance against Iran, but then it turned out that its weight in the “coalition” is like that of a fly on the back of an elephant.

Although Israel could still undergo a makeover, and even restore to itself the friends it has lost and make new ones, its ultranationalist and religious ayatollahs are convinced that God is still on our side. After all, we’re not Iran.

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