Benjamin Netanyahu is only one of the country’s prime ministers who have dealt with Iran’s nuclear arms threat since the beginning of the ‘90s. Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert also concerned themselves with the issue, along with Israel’s defense and intelligence leaders.
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But none of them turned Iran into his greatest concern, with cries of havoc and prophecies of doom, while damaging other vital assets, including the ties between Jerusalem and Washington.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s attitude to Iran is not consistent but rather tainted with an obsessiveness that sabotages Israel’s interests. This conduct culminated in Netanyahu’s speech before the American Congress in March, in the face of the American president’s objections. It exacerbated the relations between Israel and the American administration, which were already at a low, and ultimately excluded Israel from the circle of partners to the consultations about the deal with Iran.
The announcement in Vienna that an agreement had been reached presented Netanyahu with a choice. He could either recognize the facts, adapt to the evolving situation and make the best of it for Israel, or he could insist on butting his head against the wall. Netanyahu chose the second option, which means a headlong confrontation with Barack Obama and another round of attempts to mobilize votes against Obama among the president’s Republican rivals and Democratic partners.
Netanyahu is waging war on Obama on the latter’s home turf, despite the clear failure of the tactic.
Netanyahu’s pretention to teach the world history has no basis. His previous assessments regarding the materialization of the Iranian threat have proved false. Only five years ago, he objected to the same sanctions whose removal today he calls “a historic mistake.” Had he been given his wish at the time and had Iran’s nuclear facilities been bombed, either by Israel or the United States, the reactors would have been rehabilitated by now and Iran would be closer than ever to obtaining nuclear weapons.
The Vienna agreement has achieved at least a decade of freedom from the fear of Iran’s nuclear capability. It hasn’t, however, spared us the need for intelligence surveillance of the goings-on in Iran and for making preparations, in the event that Iran’s agreement is exposed as a fraud, giving impetus to increased military capabilities.
Iran intends to use this decade to rehabilitate its economy and provide for the needs of its population. Israel, too, can and should do the same, but its political leadership continues to stand firm against using the respite to funnel defense funds to civilian purposes and reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Those objecting to putting the respite to good use are mainly Netanyahu and his ministers, though opposition leaders Isaac Herzog and Yair Lapid are also, to their shame, parroting the Netanyahu motto of “bad agreement.” Like Netanyahu, they fail to see the opportunity for a turning point that is inherent in the agreement.