Netanyahu Can't Be Trusted to Keep Israel Out of War With Iran

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a ceremony to mark Yom HaZikaron, Israel's Memorial Day for fallen soldiers, at the Yad LeBanim House in Jerusalem on April 13, 2021

A series of widely reported attacks on targets in Iran and Iranian ships that were attributed to Israel reached a peak with the explosion at the nuclear facility in Natanz. Iran’s response was not slow to come this time. Tehran announced that it had begun enriching uranium to a purity of 60 percent, triple its previous level and approaching the level needed to produce a nuclear bomb. That, at a time when U.S. President Joe Biden is putting great effort into indirect negotiations aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Biden agree on the goal – preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The administration of Biden – unlike that of his predecessor Donald Trump and like most of the states that are parties to the deal – believe that the diplomatic channel, which has proved itself in the past, is the only means to stop Iran’s military nuclear program. In contrast, Israel chose an independent and much more dangerous path.

If Israel’s goal is to delay the nuclear program, the agreement that Iran continued to observe punctiliously even after the United States withdrew from it and violated only one year later was an effective impediment. This conclusion has the support of Israeli military and intelligence figures, including even Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who emphasized at the time that he did not fear the nuclear agreement and that “diplomacy has prevented war.”

Netanyahu, however, does the exact opposite, which should worry Israelis. The prime minister, who is fighting criminal charges in court, is simultaneously dragging Israel onto a collision course with the U.S. administration, causing damage to the state’s most important ally and at the same time endangering Israel and its Persian Gulf allies with a string of irresponsible tactical moves whose military effectiveness is dwarfed by the threat that they generate.

All of this is taking place when Israel does not have an inner cabinet and there are no checks on Netanyahu’s decisions. Benjamin Netanyahu is no longer the prime minister who was considered not to be a warmonger, preferring diplomatic alternatives and even concessions in order to avoid war. Today he is fighting for his political life and his personal liberty and is willing to sacrifice national security on the altar of his continued rule. The prime minister proves once again that he is incapable of managing both the affairs of state and his trial – not only because of the time he must devote to the latter, but also because his judgment is liable to lead Israel into war.

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

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