Iran Deal? Israel Sticks to Its Language of Bombing and Shelling

The so-called existential danger is needed so we can be distracted from the real danger, the continuation of the occupation.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Palestinians look for their belongings in the rubble of houses destroyed in an Israeli strike, Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, August 2, 2014
Palestinians look for their belongings in the rubble of houses destroyed in an Israeli strike, Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, August 2, 2014Credit: AP
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Secular people should have celebrated the nuclear deal as they did in Tehran. Religious people should have recited the blessing thanking God for deliverance from mortal danger. There’s a good chance that Israel has been saved from two dangers: the danger of bombing and the danger of the bomb. The first might be more dangerous than the second.

But Israel went about its business as usual. Public opinion hardly considers collective matters. The eyebrows of the sister of Niv Asraf — the guy who staged a prank kidnapping in the West Bank — were of greater interest than the Iran deal. (His sister had said, “Because of him I missed my eyebrow-plucking appointment.”)

And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu certainly went about his business. Official Israel responded to the good news from Lausanne with the same acrimonious response every time there’s a chance for a diplomatic agreement.

Netanyahu frightened and warned us as usual, and this time he added a comic pause: He demanded that the deal be conditioned on Iran recognizing Israel. He didn’t say whether he also meant that Satan should recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, but that will surely come. Actually, Zionist Union chief Isaac Herzog first came up with that foolish demand, as if to prove (again) that in really important matters there’s no difference between him and Netanyahu.

Seth Mandel, a columnist for Commentary Magazine, highlighted U.S. President Barack Obama’s statements after the agreement: “Here is what Obama said about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: ‘It’s no secret that the Israeli prime minister and I don’t agree about whether the United States should move forward with a peaceful resolution to the Iranian issue.’ ... In other words, Obama is saying publicly that Netanyahu wants war with Iran, and he wants the United States to fight it.”

In other words, to Netanyahu’s Israel, anything that didn’t include bombing Iran isn’t considered a solution, and no agreement, not even Iranian capitulation, would be considered worthy. That’s the naked truth, and it’s very disturbing.

With the world led by Obama trying to replace wars with agreements, bombings with peace arrangements, Israel sticks to its bad old language, the only one it knows, the language of war, bombing and shelling. With the world saying yes to diplomacy, Israel continues to say no. Eventually it will be condemned as a leper.

The agreement with Iran, like any agreement, is a compromise that relies on implementation. This agreement promises a chance. The alternatives, a lack of an agreement or war, were worse. Israel should have joined the rest of the world (including Iran’s adversaries Saudi Arabia and Egypt) and welcomed the agreement. But no. Agreement? Without bombing? Israel welcome it? You must be kidding.

According to former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Israel wasted 11 billion shekels ($2.75 billion) on preparations for an attack on Iran. Eleven billion. Five to education and five to health, and we would have had a different country, a much more wonderful one. That passed here without any public debate. Nothing. It was enough that Jerusalem decided that the Iranian nuclear bomb had to be thwarted at any cost, whether the issue was real or exaggerated.

No one knows whether it’s even possible to bomb them, and what the aftermath might be; no one knows how much Iran wants a bomb and what it wants a bomb for; it’s clear to everyone that an Iranian use of a nuclear bomb would be suicidal. And yet existential danger is at our door. It’s needed so we can be distracted from the real danger, the continuation of the occupation, with all its implications. Netanyahu has made a career out of this.

Now it’s over, hopefully — the danger of bombing and apparently the danger of the bomb. Netanyahu will have to find himself new scare tactics. The Israel that wanted bombing will have to remember the terrible damage inflicted by all its bombings and all its wars, and the benefits that stemmed from the few agreements it signed.

Never has a war done it good. In contrast, the agreements, whether separation or peace, gave it existential benefits for years. But the national DNA continues to deny this and says “only war.”

Gideon Levy tweets at @levy_haaretz

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