A Strike on Iran Won't Halt Mideast's Nuclear Strivers

Article Summary
An Israeli strike will not prevent Iran or other Middle Eastern countries from acquiring nuclear weapons, writes Emanuel Rosen, and Israel must adapt to this new regional order.

As the clock is ticking on the upcoming US presidential election and the centrifuges in [the nuclear facilities in] Iran are turning around at an ever faster pace, an ever growing-number of hyperbolic phrases, high-flown speeches and banner headlines are filling the air — all apprehensively dealing with the historic moment and the historic decision and the fateful days the like of which have never been seen here before.

The last one to stir up some more drama on these days of awe is none other than [former minister and Knesset member (for the Likud and Kadima)] Tzachi Hanegbi, who has turned into the most fervent advocate of [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu. [Addressing a closed meeting of Likud activists,] Tzachi Hanegbi [who is known to be a close associate of Netanyahu and has recently rejoined the Likud] was talking on the [next] most fateful 50 days in Jewish history, naturally, not forgetting to mention that the person in charge at the helm of history these days was a responsible leader with foresight and historical vision, which we, ordinary people, cannot even understand.

In this drama, whose scenario has been written in numerous speeches, leaks, briefings and commentaries, there is immense significance to the reiterated mention of [Israel's first Premier] David Ben Gurion, who against all odds and in the face of widespread opposition, both nationally and internationally, made the decision for the establishment of a Jewish state in the land of Israel. Among the co-stars in this dramatic scenario is [former Prime Minister] Menachem Begin, who [in 1981] ordered [the Israel Air Force] to destroy the [Iraqi] nuclear reactor [in Osirak near Baghdad]. We can only hope that the Intelligence in our [Israel's] disposal on the goings-on deep underground in Iran is a bit more reliable than the far-fetched analogies cited above.

It seems to me that there is no need to explain why the dilemma David Ben Gurion was facing at the time [in 1948] and the one Netanyahu has to tackle today are fundamentally different and why the circumstances in each of the cases are essentially incomparable; why the moment of decision then was really a historic moment, while the present decision, important or even dramatic as it may be, is certainly nothing beyond that. Similarly, I believe that there is no need for me to say that, like the rest of the world, I too hope and wish and pray that the Ayatollahs regime in Tehran will not live to see Iran becoming a nuclear power.

However, it also seems to me that the truth has to be said: It is not up to Netanyahu to decide whether or not Iran will become a nuclear power. In fact, it's rather in doubt whether the international community with all its might or any of the bigger and stronger powers has such capability of decision. We [in Israel] certainly have no pull in the matter. And another truth that should be noted in this context is that even a nuclear Iran — and let's wish it will never become nuclear — would constitute no existential threat to Israel. If a nuclear bomb threatens our very existence here, then 22 hostile Arab countries, some of which equipped with thousands of non-conventional missiles, are no less a threat to Israel, and like the nuclear one, the matter is not dependent on or subject to any decision made by Netanyahu.

Here and there, real experts are trying to spoil the party. They agree that nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran would be a serious trouble. However, even if the day comes, and it's rather in doubt whether it will ever come, and a missile [carrying a nuclear warhead] is launched and hits us badly — it is not the sort of strike that cannot be recovered from, the experts explain. If this extremist regime [in Tehran] in fact becomes nuclear, the picture will indeed change — but the picture has never been really clear or predictable, given the situation where a Jewish state is drowning in a Muslim sea, part of which is very extreme and the majority of it, hostile.

And there is another thing that should be taken into account: Nuclear might — once, and even today, exclusively held by but a few will not remain exclusive forever. The world is bound to become ever more dangerous; however, that's precisely what happened following the invention of the gunpowder. At a certain point in history, states like Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt will become nuclear as well.

The decisions taken by Netanyahu in the next 50 fateful days Hanegbi was talking about are going to be significant and far-reaching; however, it's rather in doubt whether and to what extent they can really affect the fate of Israel and that of the entire world.

It may of course be argued that the question whether the decision Netanyahu is facing right now is indeed historic or merely important is a semantic question. But such argumentation would be misleading, as the use of historic terminology is inevitably stirring up hysteria.

What's more, mobilizing the great names of the past, like that of Ben Gurion, on behalf of the decision-making process undermines the ability to think logically and analyze in proportion. We are no doubt lucky to have people like [Likud Knesset Member] Tzipi Hotovely and [Finance Minister] Yuval Steinitz, who take us back to reality from time to time. The Israeli parliament member [who initiated a letter of support for Netanyahu] argues that the campaign against an attack on Iran is an irresponsible one and motivated by ulterior motives. And the [Finance] Minister evaluates that [Defense Minister] Ehud Barak may not really be interested in an attack [on Iran] and is actually preoccupied with preparing another sting operation for the Prime Minister.

With David Ben Gurion, regardless of and notwithstanding any mistakes he may have made, politics was invariably at the service of history. Alas, it's the other way round with his successors, who over the years have once and again enlisted history in the service of politics.

Found in: turkey, security, nuclear, israeli security, israel, iran, egypt

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