Israel's Misguided War Against Iran's Gas Stations

Haaretz Editorial
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A missile is launched during a military drill, with the participation of Iran's Air Defense units
Haaretz Editorial

Israel’s greatest achievement against the Iranian nuclear program was when it managed to convince the international community that the Iranian threat wasn’t Israel’s private concern, but was aimed at the entire world. This achievement is rightly credited to Benjamin Netanyahu, now the opposition leader. As prime minister, he succeeded in fusing the Israeli and international tracks into a single consensual track that was joined not only by Western countries, but also by leading Arab states like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

This mobilization produced the nuclear agreement that was signed in 2015 and curtailed Iran’s nuclear development in exchange for the removal of sanctions on it. But Israel, which had reservations about the agreement and viewed it as a Western capitulation to Iran, began aiming its fire at both the deal and then-U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration, which was the driving force behind the agreement as well as one of its signatories.

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Three years later, in 2018, Israel racked up another huge “achievement,” once again thanks to Netanyahu. U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement and significantly intensified sanctions on Iran. But this move boomeranged and blew up in Israel’s face. Iran resumed enriching uranium in large quantities, began producing material necessary to build a nuclear bomb and is now a more immediate and dangerous threat than it was just before the agreement was signed.

At the same time, again due to Netanyahu, Iran became a political time bomb in Israel. Showy operations, like revealing files of information about Iran’s previous nuclear programs and the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists, were additional impressive scalps for Netanyahu’s belt. But on the international front, the achievement of solidarity with Israel crumbled and was replaced by an orchestrated campaign to reinstate the nuclear deal, led by current U.S. President Joe Biden.

It now seems that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has also succumbed to the allure of tactical operations against Iran and has even set far more megalomaniac goals than his predecessor. The cyberattack on Iranian gas stations was explained by defense officials as a means of spurring public protests in Iran that could develop into a civil uprising that would eventually lead to the collapse of the regime. And indeed, apocalyptic messianists have never abandoned this doctrine. But Iranians don’t need an Israeli shot in the arm to be fed up with the regime. And just like Israelis won’t revolt against their government because of the cyberattack on the Atraf website, Iranians presumably also won’t rush to take to the streets.

The Iranian threat is too serious and too dangerous to be left in the hands of gamers and hackers. The nuclear agreement is currently the only realistic option for halting Iran’s nuclear program. Any attempt to thwart it is tantamount to sabotaging Israel’s national security.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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