Op-Ed: Netanyahu's Finest Hour?
Dr. Emmanuel NavonThe author heads the Political Science and Communications Department at the Jerusalem Orthodox College, and teaches International Relations at Tel-Aviv University and at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.
This year, I happened to be in lower Manhattan during the 9/11 commemorations. Eleven years have passed since that terrible morning, and America has thankfully killed Ben-Laden.
From a historical perspective, however, Ben-Laden did achieve one of his objectives: to replace US-backed Arab regimes with Islamic ones.
Iran has played a major role, and continues to play a major role, in the Islamic takeover of the Middle-East and of North Africa. It also pursues nuclear weapons with the declared aim of wiping Israel off the map.
History has taught us that when Jew-haters threaten to kill Jews, they should be taken seriously. But History has also taught us that no country has ever abandoned its nuclear ambitions as a result of economic sanctions.
The Reagan administration didn’t want Pakistan to go nuclear, and the Bush junior Administration didn’t want North Korea to get the bomb either. Yet in spite of pressures and sanctions, both countries went ahead.
Iraq and Libya, on the other hand, did forego their nuclear programs only because they either suffered or feared a military strike. Saddam Hussein abandoned his nuclear ambitions after his French-built nuclear reactor was bombed by Israel in 1981. Muammar Gaddafi stopped his nuclear program right after the US and British invasion of Iraq in 2003, because he feared that he would be next in line. Even Iran temporarily suspended its nuclear program after the invasion of Iraq for fear of a US strike. As soon as it became clear that the Bush Administration had abandoned the idea of destroying Iran’s nuclear plants, Iran renewed its nuclear program.
Not surprisingly, economic sanctions are not convincing Iran to stop its nuclear program. For a start, these sanctions are a sham because they are not enforced by China (which needs Iran’s oil) and by Russia (which sees in Iran the last rampart against US hegemony in the Middle East). In addition, Iran and Egypt are now negotiating an oil deal to make up for Iran’s lost sales to the European Union. Iran supported the 2011 uprising that brought Muhammad Morsi to power. Now it is ripping the economic benefits of having a new Islamic ally.
But even if sanctions were actually enforced against Iran, they would be powerless: a leadership that has declared its readiness to sacrifice millions of its own citizens for the sake of destroying Israel surely has no qualms about temporarily lowering the living standards of its future victims.
So saying, as Hillary Clinton just did, that sanctions are the best way to get Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions is simply ridiculous and nonsensical.
Containment is not an option either. The threat of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) is what deterred both the United States and the Soviet Union from going to war. Such deterrence will not apply to Islamists because they are suicidal. If anything, they believe that an Israeli nuclear strike will grant them a short-cut to heaven.
Nothing, bar a devastating military strike, will prevent Iran from getting the bomb.
America has the military capability of mostly annihilating Iran’s nuclear installations, but candidate Obama will not attack Iran while on the campaign trail. More worryingly for Israel, a re-elected President Obama will unlikely order a military strike. After all, the United States has already lost most of its Middle-East allies to Islamic regimes. So why contain and deter Iran when the latter has already achieved its goal of replacing US-backed Arab regimes with Islamic ones?
A nuclear-armed Iran could technically close the Straits of Hormuz (a major oil route) without fear of American retaliation. But such a move would be so harmful to Iran’s economy that it wouldn’t make sense. America was able to live with a nuclear Soviet Union, and it is able to live today with a nuclear Russia, a nuclear China, a nuclear Pakistan, and a nuclear North Korea.
A nuclear-armed Iran would further undermine US interests and power, but it would not constitute an unbearable threat to the United States. The Iranian bomb constitutes an existential threat to Israel, not to America. So Israel has good reasons to suspect that the current US Administration is bluffing when it says that all options are on the table to prevent Iran from getting the bomb.
Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency declared that Iran is moving its nuclear production underground by doubling the number of centrifuges it has installed at its facility near the city of Qom. While Iran is approaching the “immunity zone” that would make its underground nuclear fuel sites impregnable to attack, the US Government isn’t sending any ultimatum to the Mullahs.
So it does look like Israel is on its own with Iran. To add insult to injury, the Obama Administration is now trying to hold us back. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s remark that “those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel” was spot-on.
Israel is on its own today the same way that it was on its own when it declared its independence in 1948, when it grounded the Egyptian air force in 1967, and when it rescued Jewish hostages in Uganda in 1976. In all cases, the Jewish leadership made a tough decision that defied logics but that relied on what Israel’s Declaration of Independence calls “The Rock of Israel.”
Making hard decisions and taking calculated risks is what leadership is all about. The coming New Year will be decisive. May it be remembered as Netanyahu’s finest hour.
The writer is a Likud Candidate for the 2013 Knesset Elections