Surprise: Benjamin Netanyahu Was Right About Iran

What the world promised would never happen is happening. What Israel’s defense establishment promised would never happen is happening. Iran is becoming a nuclear power, while Israel stands alone.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
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Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

If Israel were a sane country, it would have been concerned this week with one thing only: The Economist. The British weekly is the leading quality news magazine in the West, one of the few media outlets that give voice to the serious strategic and economic discourse of the global elite. Therefore, when the Economist declared this week that it's impossible to stop Iran's nuclear program, the significance of this statement was dramatic.

Via the Economist, the mainstream of the international community admitted that its campaign against Iran's nuclearization has ended in failure. And via this journal, the school that favors containing a nuclear Iran came out of the closet.

While Israel was busy with light entertainment in the form of political reality shows, The Economist informed it this week that a difficult strategic reality is taking shape around it. What the world promised would never happen is happening at this very moment. What the top ranks of Israel's defense establishment promised would never happen is in fact happening. Iran is becoming a nuclear power, while Israel (which is sunk in summer daydreams ) stands alone.

From 2009 to 2012, a vigorous debate over Iran took place here. On one side were the optimists: President Shimon Peres, then-Mossad chief Meir Dagan, then-Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin, then-Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, the defense establishment, the media establishment and the refreshing spirit of hoping for the best. On the other side was a gloomy, besmirched pessimist: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

America is there, said the optimists. No, it isn't, said the pessimist. There's a hidden hand, said the optimists. No, there isn't, said the pessimist. There's time, said the optimists. No, there isn't, said the pessimist. Iran's nuclear program must be stopped by the fall of 2012, the pessimist said. It's not Iran's nuclear program that's the problem, but the prime minister, the optimists said.

For three and a half years, the optimists went from one journalist to another and from one American to another and said that the pessimist is a dangerous purveyor of doom and gloom who sees molehills as mountains and doesn't understand that the world won't let Iran go nuclear. For three and a half years, the optimists tied the pessimist's hands on the basis of the threefold promise of America, the hidden hand and time.

But suddenly, this week, along comes The Economist and says that the optimists' absolute promise was a false promise. That it's too late. That the enriched uranium horses have already fled the stables. The international optimists and the Israeli optimists were wrong, big time. Surprise surprise: Benjamin Netanyahu was right.

It's possible to criticize his conduct. It's obligatory to criticize certain aspects of his policy. The Israeli military option shouldn't have been the principal option on the table. Generosity toward Ramallah should have been part of Jerusalem's battle against Tehran. But Netanyahu understood the Iranian challenge better than others, and he read the map of the campaign against Iran better than others.

While the optimists were misled by their illusions, the pessimist read reality correctly. While the defense establishment and the media establishment were smitten with weakness and apathy, the pessimist kept sounding alarms. But because neither the sinking West nor partying Israel paid attention to his warnings, the world has entered a new and dangerous strategic reality. Wolf? Wolf? Wolf! A strategic wolf with nuclear teeth is now at the gate.

Perhaps it's still possible to disprove The Economist's situation assessment. Perhaps an immediate, complete diplomatic and economic blockade of Iran could still cause it to suspend its nuclear program in order to preserve its regime. But anyone who wants to refute the prophecy of disaster diplomatically rather than militarily must act immediately. We're out of time. We're really out of time.

Waking up at one minute to midnight will be hard. But waking up at one minute after midnight is liable to be catastrophic.

The Natanz nuclear facility in Iran.Credit: Reuters
Benjamin Netanyahu addressing the UN about the threat posed by Iran's nuclear program.Credit: AP

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