Editorial

Trump's Nuclear Bear Hug

Israel cannot risk being seen as the party responsible for breaking up the international coalition against Iran

Illustration
Amos Biderman

Despite the fact that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that “technically” Iran had not violated the nuclear agreement, President Donald Trump announced Friday that it did so a number of times and said he would not certify it. Like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump believes the agreement is bad and that the “deal allows Iran to continue developing certain elements of its nuclear program.” Like Netanyahu, he fears that “in just a few years ... Iran can sprint towards a rapid nuclear weapons breakout.”

With the exception of Israel and Saudi Arabia, which expressed their support for Trump, the world voiced objections and concerns. Trump ended his speech with a warning that if the administration is “not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated.” European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini reminded him that the United States cannot unilaterally cancel the agreement. Russia responded that Iran is meeting its commitments. Britain, Germany and France said that preserving the agreement is a joint interest, and asked the United States to consider the impact of breaking it on the security of the United States and its allies.

>> Netanyahu’s real test on Iran: Translating Trump's words into actions | Analysis <<

The struggle against the nuclear agreement has been at the top of Netanyahu’s priorities for years now. It seems that Trump is going to do what Netanyahu asked him and the world to do innumerable times, including from the rostrum at the United Nations last month: “Fix it or nix it.”

>> No one’s got a clue what's next on Iran. Unfortunately, that includes Trump himself | Opinion <<

Committed to his goal, Netanyahu was ready to risk himself and Israel in robust diplomatic activity that many could interpret, if a military conflict breaks out, as too robust.

That is a risky gamble in light of the unprecedented situation in Washington. Republican Sen. Bob Corker, head of the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations, revealed last week that Tillerson and the generals John Kelly and James Mattis are busy most of the time reining in the president, whose conduct could lead to World War III, and that many Republican senators think as he does, but are afraid to express their opinion. Neither they, world leaders nor Netanyahu know how Trump will act in the event of a confrontation with the Iranians. In his speech, Trump stressed that Israel and the United States are the targets of Iran’s threats.

The American embrace that makes Netanyahu and his government so happy could turn out to be a bear hug. When Trump drags Israel into the foxhole with it, it endangers Israel too. Israel’s greatest achievement was its contribution to the formation of an international coalition against Iran, which attained the agreement. Now Israel is perceived as breaking up that coalition, and it could find itself facing a harsh reality and once again needing the assistance of the international community.

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