Understanding Israel’s fears over the Iran nuclear deal

Israeli and Saudi fears of the Iran nuke deal

The media has been saturated with reports of Israeli “hysteria” and “over-reaction” at the interim nuclear deal just signed between Iran and the P5+1.  Reaction to Israel’s reaction has ranged from bemusement to mockery to gleeful schadenfreude, although there have been some notable exceptions.

In order to understand the depth of the US’s betrayal of Israel, and the full reasons for Israel’s fears, you could do no better than read the following articles.

Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal, in an extremely hard-hitting article, explains how the agreement is worse than the infamous 1938 Munich “peace in our time” agreement with the Nazis:

Britain and France’s capitulation to Nazi Germany at Munich has long been a byword for ignominy, moral and diplomatic. Yet neither Neville Chamberlain nor Édouard Daladier had the public support or military wherewithal to stand up to Hitler in September 1938. Britain had just 384,000 men in its regular army; the first Spitfire aircraft only entered RAF service that summer. “Peace for our time” it was not, but at least appeasement bought the West a year to rearm.


By contrast, the interim nuclear agreement signed in Geneva on Sunday by Iran and the six big powers has many of the flaws of Munich and Paris. But it has none of their redeeming or exculpating aspects.


And each deal was a prelude to worse. After Munich came the conquest of Czechoslovakia, the Nazi-Soviet pact and World War II. After Paris came the fall of Saigon and Phnom Penh and the humiliating exit from the embassy rooftop. After Geneva there will come a new, chaotic Mideast reality in which the United States will lose leverage over enemies and friends alike.

What will that look like? Iran will gradually shake free of sanctions and glide into a zone of nuclear ambiguity that will keep its adversaries guessing until it opts to make its capabilities known. Saudi Arabia will move swiftly to acquire a nuclear deterrent from its clients in Islamabad; Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal made that clear to the Journal last week when he indiscreetly discussed “the arrangement with Pakistan.” Egypt is beginning to ponder a nuclear option of its own while drawing closer to a security alliance with Russia.

As for Israel, it cannot afford to live in a neighborhood where Iran becomes nuclear, Assad remains in power, and Hezbollah—Israel’s most immediate military threat—gains strength, clout and battlefield experience. The chances that Israel will hazard a strike on Iran’s nuclear sites greatly increased since Geneva. More so the chances of another war with Hezbollah.

A similar article by Yossi Klein Halevi in the New Republic (h/t This Ongoing War twitter feed) explains why Israelis think they are now less safe:

There are only two credible obstacles to an Iranian bomb: economic sanctions and the possibility of an Israeli military strike. The deal signed with the Iranian regime threatens both.


But there is another, less publicly spoken fear in Jerusalem, and that is that the six-month freeze will actually hamper Israel’s ability to effectively launch a military strike.

Israel’s window of opportunity to launch an effective strike is closing. It is now measured in months, not years. The deal, worry Israelis, could further narrow that window.


If Israel concludes that its window is closing and does decide to strike, even while the deal remains in effect, it risks becoming an international pariah—in effect exchanging roles with Iran. On the morning after an Israeli strike, Israel could find itself alone, facing tens of thousands of missiles from Hezbollah and Iran launched against its home front.


… The result of the deal, Israelis argue, is that the administration has set back Tehran’s nuclear program by at most one or two months, but at an enormous gain for Iran. At the end of the six-month freeze, Iran will retain its 10,000 centerfuges that are already spinning and 9,000 more that haven’t yet gone on line, as well as over 7,000 kilograms of enriched uranium, enough to make between six to eight bombs—while the international community would bicker over the extent of renewed sanctions.

The deal confirms what Israeli leaders and much of the Israeli public have come to believe about Barack Obama: that he never intended to use military force against Iran, even as a last resort, and that this president will ensure that, sooner or later, Iran becomes the next North Korea.


Now, though, Israelis are asking this: After eight years of President Obama, will the Middle East be a safer or more dangerous region for Israel?

For most Israelis the answer is self-evident. The turning point came this summer, when Obama hesitated to enforce his own red line over Syria. That was the moment that he lost the trust of the Israeli public on Iran.


Israel’s critics often speak of the need to apply pressure against it, to “save it from itself.” This time, it may well be up to Israel to save the world from itself.

My final reading suggestion is Caroline Glick who takes bitter aim at Obama’s foreign policy which she says is not aimed at strengthening – or even weakening – America’s standing in the world, but is purely aimed at weakening Israel:

With the US and its allies far more eager to reach an accord with Iran on its illicit nuclear weapons program than Iran was, it was obvious from the outset that any deal ultimately reached, at least as long as these negotiating conditions remained in force, would facilitate rather than inhibit Iran’s quest to build a nuclear arsenal. And indeed, the sanctions relief that Iran has gained simply by signing on the dotted line will be sufficient to buffet the Iranian economy through a successful nuclear weapons test.


While the deal isn’t surprising in and of itself, Obama’s decision to conclude it now makes clear the true goal of his foreign policy. To understand that goal, it is first necessary to consider an aspect of the deal that, on the surface, makes little sense.


The negotiations with the Iranians that culminated in Saturday night’s agreement went on for a year.

And yet, the final deal reflects Iran’s opening positions.


So what did Obama need the last year for? If he wasn’t concerned with getting a less dangerous deal, and he didn’t care what the American people though about his facilitation of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, what prevented him from okaying the agreement last year? To ascertain the answer, it is worth considering Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s comments Sunday morning. Beyond noting the nuclear deal’s danger to Israel’s security, Lapid said, “I am worried not only over the deal but that we have lost the world’s attention.”

And indeed, Israel has lost the world’s attention. Its appropriately deep concerns over Iran’s nuclear behavior were belittled, ignored and derided, first and foremost by the Obama administration. Worse than belittling Israel’s concerns, which are completely shared by the Sunni Arab world, Obama and Kerry have castigated as warmongers those Americans who agree with Israel’s concerns and have attacked them as traitors who seek to push America into an unnecessary war. At the same time, they have presented the dispute as one of Israel against the rest of the world, ignoring that the Sunni Arab world shares Israel’s concerns.

Statements to this effect from US officials have been legion since the details of the deal were first divulged to Israel and the Gulf States by the French and the British three weeks ago.


Over the past year, Obama has engaged in systematically weakening Israel’s position both regionally and in Washington. Regionally, the US has forced Israel into talks with the Palestinians that are engineered to weaken Israel strategically and diplomatically. The US has delegitimized Israel’s legal rights to sovereignty and self-defense, while effectively justifying Palestinian terrorism as a legitimate response to Israeli actions – which themselves were perfectly legal. So, too, the US has given a green light to the EU’s illegal, discriminatory economic war against Israel.

Beyond that, the Obama administration has significantly expanded the prospect of war between Israel and Syria by leaking Israeli strikes against Syrian targets that posed a threat to Israel’s security.

The US has also weakened Israel’s capacity to take steps short of war to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons possessing state by leaking key components of Israel’s covert operations against Iran’s nuclear program.


It has supported J Street and so legitimized anti-Israel policymaking.

Obama appointed outspoken critics of the US-Israel alliance to key positions in his national security team. First and foremost in this arena was his appointment of Chuck Hagel to serve as defense secretary.

Finally, Obama discredited AIPA C, painting it as an unthinking warmonger by forcing the group to lobby Congress to support his helter-skelter rush to war against Syria. The coup de grace was Obama’s sudden abandonment of his plans to bomb Syria, which left AIPA C high and dry, looking like an anti-Semitic caricature of itself.

The culmination of this long process of delegitimizing Israel as a warmongering, ungrateful ally and its supporters as turncoats who are forcing the US to endanger itself for the benefit of the Jewish state was the administration’s hysterical campaign against Israel and its supporters in the lead-up to Saturday’s signing ceremony in Geneva. Everyone, from the White House to Kerry, accused Israel and its supporters of trying to force the US to fight an unnecessary war.

When we consider Obama’s decision to wait for a year to sign the deal that enables Iran to become a nuclear power in the context of his main activities over the past year, we understand his foreign policy.

His goal is not to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. It isn’t even to facilitate a rapprochement between America and Iran. The goal of Obama’s foreign policy is to weaken the State of Israel.

These three articles sum up all that is wrong with the “disarmament” deal with Iran, the betrayal of America’s allies, and the fears of those allies. Let no one be surprised if and when Israel takes action.  And we in Israel won’t be surprised when the condemnations come flowing in for us having the temerity to defend ourselves.

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4 Responses to Understanding Israel’s fears over the Iran nuclear deal

  1. peteca1 says:

    Anne … going back to some earlier remarks you made …

    “Excuse me, but the Americans hardly reacted when Khamenei called Israel “a rabid dog, a cancer” etc. just last week. Is that the behaviour of an ally? Why didn’t America or the West protest this disgusting speech? If they say “it’s a figure of speech” let’s see how they react when Israel calls America “pathetic surrender monkeys”.

    Hahahahahaha! Funny.
    I think the reason the US does not respond to these constant epithets from the Iranians is that frankly that we have grown weary of hearing them. No-one here takes them seriously any more. I’m sure the US Administration probably feels the same way. There is a general sense that the Iranians just say this garbage to fill up space in their own newspaper headlines and keep their populace brainwashed. But I doubt it’s working, even on the streets of Tehran.

    The bigger problem really is the constant battle in the world media. Since the news has gone “Internet” and print media have found themselves on a death-spiral, real journalism has taken a back seat to illusion and hype. There is a constant daily battle in the media, and the facts behind any issue seem hardly to matter. The people who craft these internet blurbs that pass as “news” are well aware of this. Their efforts are much more about creative writing and appeal to base emotions amongst the public – instead of underlying logic and clear rationales for policies.

    For this reason Israel DOES need to keep its own rationale and position clearly explained in the world media. Just because you guys stated your position last week, or last month, does not mean the global audience will fix this view firmly in their minds. Almost immediately after a story is made, competing views will start popping up on the Internet to try to dilute the message. It is a never-ending war for the truth – or actually a war to obscure the truth.

    Pete, USA

    • anneinpt says:

      Of course you’re absolutely right Pete, and that’s what I try to do at my little blog here – to amplify Israel’s side in the media. And as you rightly say, it’s an uphill battle.

      Our own politicians hardly help matters. While our official spokesmen struggle valiantly in the face of a sometimes hostile or apathetic media, our politicians have not yet mastered the art of speaking with one voice when talking to the international media, staying “on message” and not airing our dirty laundry or trying to score domestic points while outside Israel’s borders.

      However, when a country like the US knows that a recent move by them, like this nuclear deal, which potentially endangers their ally, and then their ally’s enemy uses such inciting words against that ally, the least one would expect would be a condemnation a priori – and not only when it is grudgingly nudged out of them by their ally.

      I also disagree with you that these words are “garbage to fill up space in their own newspaper headlines and keep their populace brainwashed.
      These words can and do incite to kill.

      But I doubt it’s working, even on the streets of Tehran.

      Perhaps not on the streets of Tehran, but on the streets of Ramallah and Gaza and Beirut? Those are the words the brainwashed masses live and die by.

      However, as you say, all that Israel can do is protest loudly and persistently at the anti-Israel incitement, and also to keep reporting on Iran’s violations of the deal to keep it in the public eye. That’s assuming the media don’t suffer from overload or Israel-fatigue.

      • peteca1 says:

        well Anne – you make a very good point. i am being far too complacent in my comments. we do not have people in our neighborhoods in the US who listen to Khamenei’s comments seriously and then directly use violence after hearing them. if people started firing rockets into California or Arizona after Khamenei gave one of those speeches – there would be he** to pay in America. So we don’t pay much attention to his propaganda, because we just do not experience that type of fanaticism in our daily lives. Unfortunately, American media commentators and our politicians tend to overlook this aspect of Iranian behavior.
        Pete, USA

        • anneinpt says:

          I can understand the American and int’l media ignoring or not understanding the anti-Israel incitement even if I don’t agree with it. If you haven’t experienced it, it’s hard to empathise. But it’s unforgivable for the Administration to do so. They need to understand our neigbourhood if they want to persuade us to take actions that endanger us. That was really the point I was trying to make.

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