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What Makes Iran’s Bomb Any Worse Than Israel's?

yossi klein
Yossi Klein
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A partial view of the Dimona nuclear power plant in Israel's Negev Desert, September 2002.
A partial view of the Dimona nuclear power plant in Israel's Negev Desert, September 2002. Credit: Thomas Coax / AFP
yossi klein
Yossi Klein

About two weeks ago, Haaretz reported that the Iranian nuclear bomb is almost here; the missiles are already in the air. But nothing happened. The supermarket didn’t run out of toilet paper or long-life milk supplies. That’s surprising. What happened to our famous preparedness? Where is the alertness that’s been praised by all who have seen it? Have you forgotten how our leaders scared us with the Iranian threat? How much money they invested in it? When it came, nothing, silence. Instead, we’re arguing about whether or not to vaccinate.

We know that politicians lie, but not on the issue of the Iranian threat. It’s not a matter of submarines or the morality of the most moral army in the world. It’s a matter of our existence. We trusted the Iranian threat. For its sake, we inflated the defense budget and made sure to be attentive and obedient in the way that rulers love. We want to know everything about vaccinations, but not about this.

We didn’t want to ask. The Iranian threat was one of those subjects about which they told us: Forget it. There’s no point in our giving you all the details. What do you understand about centrifuges? Trust us. Everything will be all right, as in the case of the submarines. We trusted them. We didn’t ask whether Iran is also under an existential threat, or only us. We thought that in Tehran they should empty the supermarket shelves, not here. We knew that they had reason to fear. Any child can log in to Wikipedia and see that we have over 100 nuclear bombs and intercontinental missiles that can carry nuclear warheads to a range of thousands of kilometers.

So what should we be afraid of? Columnist Israel Harel was right. According to him, we should embark on a military confrontation immediately, now, today, after the holiday at the latest. The main thing is not to “contain” the problem, the main thing is not to sit on our fat backsides and discuss the question of who benefits from the Pfizer vaccines.

It’s true that there’s a price to pay for the great satisfaction that accompanies a preliminary attack, but it’s not sky-high. Ehud Barak estimated in his day that an Iranian retaliatory attack would produce fewer than 500 corpses. A real bargain relative to the tremendous benefit of destroying, erasing and eradicating the Iranian threat forever and ever. Or at least, as usual, for three months.

That means that we’re talking about acceptable losses. Amos Yadlin, director of the Institute for National Security Studies, spoke of chemical warheads and suicide ships. Historian Alex Wellerstein, an expert on nuclear weapons, estimates that a nuclear bomb in central Tel Aviv would kill 84,000 people (he reassured us that dying would take from “a few hours to a number of weeks”).

So then we’re not talking about an existential threat but an “operation.” We’re threatening them, and they’re threatening us. Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid recently threatened, and were preceded by Benjamin Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz. It’s true that Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, said “We won’t use nuclear weapons,” but go trust a Muslim. It’s just Oriental imagination, entirely different from our Western credibility. Yes, we also lied here and there, we flaunted “ambiguity” and “the textile plant in Dimona,” but we’re allowed to (because of the Holocaust and all). It’s understandable why we don’t trust them – it's impossible to trust an ultranationalist religious regime that thinks that it’s God’s gift to the world. It’s impossible to rely on a country whose considerations are based on the insanity of megalomaniacal clerics (I’m referring to Iran, of course).

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz at a military ceremony in Israel, in July.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

In that case, why are we yawning when the missiles are on the way? Why are we so apathetic? It’s possible that very quietly, with a sudden flash of illumination of unknown origin, we have started to doubt the existence of the “Iranian threat.” Perhaps we have come to understand that this is a case of the famous “hold me back” tactic from the elementary school playground, when two kids are fighting and waiting for someone to come from the teachers’ room and rescue them from their threats to kill one another.

Now we understand that the chances that their missiles will land on us are like the chances that ours will land on them – in other words, a minuscule chance – and that we’re extras in a dialogue of the deaf. And, there’s another, really hair-raising possibility: That it’s not only the Iranian nuke that is endangering world peace but also our domination in the territories, which is likely to serve as an excuse to use the bomb.

Historian Benny Morris wrote in Haaretz that the choice we face is to live in constant fear of Iran or to attack it. He didn’t write that it is also Iran’s choice, that maybe it should attack us rather than living in constant fear of an insane nuclear power.

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