The diplomatic dialogue that endangers Israel isn’t between the six powers and Iran on the nuclear agreement, but the one that is leading Israel and the United States down the path of conflict.
When Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned, “If there’s a return to the nuclear accord, Israel isn’t a party to it and is not bound by it,” he was sending a message directly to the President of the United States, Joe Biden, and to the Western powers. The message is that Israel sees itself as being free to act as it sees fit against the Iranian threat and that in the prime minister’s eye, diplomatic efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear program are of no value.
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Washington has taken off its gloves, too, via The New York Times, which recently quoted senior U.S. administration officials warning Israel that “repeated attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities may be tactically satisfying, but they are ultimately counterproductive.” Words like these, which until now had only been exchanged behind closed doors, show that this isn’t just a disagreement between the two countries over tactics but a signal to Israel about the limits of American tolerance.
If until now the impression was that the United States understood the Israeli position and was even willing to look away when Israel attacked Iranian targets, it seems that Israeli freedom of action will now carry a price tag. After a half-year break, negotiations are expected to resume in Vienna next week as part of Biden’s policy of exhausting any and all diplomatic channels to block Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon.
In this context, it is important to remember Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s remarks just before the signing of the original nuclear agreement: “The agreement could have been better, but the glass is half full – a delay in the Iranian nuclear program of 10 or 15 years is a good thing.” Two months ago, Gantz said in an interview with Foreign Policy magazine that Israel could live with a new agreement and that “the current U.S. approach of putting the Iran nuclear program back in a box – I’d accept that.”
Israel is entitled to doubt the seriousness of American declarations, to seek explanations and clarifications about Washington’s plans if the negotiations fail or drag on while Iran continues to advance its nuclear program. But the diplomatic, strategic, economic and historic links between Israel and the United States, not to mention Israel’s reliance on a power that regards Israel’s security as a pillar of its defense policy, requires that Israel stand by Biden’s side and not place land mines in his path.
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The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.