Confronting Iran after the U.S. Withdrawal from the Nuclear Deal

June 14 2018

Identifying four different paths Tehran could take in response to Washington’s decision to jettison the 2015 nuclear agreement, Amos Yadlin and Ari Heistein recommend possible Israeli and American courses of action for each. In the two bleaker scenarios, the Islamic Republic would resume the production of highly enriched uranium that had ceased when negotiations with the Obama administration began or, worse, simply try to make a bomb. Yadlin and Heistein write:

In [the former case], the United States and Israel, in order to avoid an unintended war while still preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, would need to demarcate a clear red line that Iran’s nuclear program would not be allowed to cross. . . . [T]he red line should not focus only on enrichment levels but also on the enrichment of large quantities of uranium to a low level or spinning a large number of centrifuges, two alternative routes that could bring Iran within a short breakout period to the bomb.

And then, there’s the worst-case scenario. Iran may adopt an extreme response to the change in U.S. policy by leaving the nuclear deal and the Nonproliferation Treaty, [which Iran signed in 1968 and has not renounced], and then breaking out to a bomb. That would raise the chances of military confrontation.

Military action to prevent the ayatollahs from acquiring a nuclear weapon would have much broader diplomatic support than in the previous scenario—in the U.S. as well as Europe. However, Israel would be well-advised to note that President Trump’s explicit promise to reduce U.S. involvement in the Middle East makes him less likely to order U.S. forces to strike. In this case, Israel would probably find itself acting alone, albeit with a “green light” and support from Washington. Israel would have to consider exercising the Begin doctrine, which calls for preventing any regime that seeks to wipe it off the map from acquiring nuclear weapons. . . .

The key for Israel, in such a scenario, would be finding ways to avoid further escalation. . . . But a surgical strike could actually provide a middle ground between inaction and escalation to full-scale war. And if Israel can obtain full-fledged and public support from Washington and endorsements in private from the Sunni Arab leadership, it may be able to deter Iran from retaliating and escalating the conflict.

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More about: Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Menachem Begin, U.S. Foreign policy

Israel’s Nation-State Law and the Hysteria of the Western Media

Aug. 17 2018

Nearly a month after it was passed by the Knesset, the new Basic Law defining Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” is still causing outrage in the American and European press. The attacks, however, are almost uniformly incommensurate with this largely symbolic law, whose text, in the English translation found on the Knesset website, is barely over 400 words in length. Matthew Continetti comments:

Major journalistic institutions have become so wedded to a pro-Palestinian, anti-Benjamin Netanyahu narrative, in which Israel is part of a global trend toward nationalist authoritarian populism, that they have abdicated any responsibility for presenting the news in a dispassionate and balanced manner. The shameful result of this inflammatory coverage is the normalization of anti-Israel rhetoric and policies and widening divisions between Israel and the diaspora.

For example, a July 18, 2018, article in the Los Angeles Times described the nation-state law as “granting an advantageous status to Jewish-only communities.” But that is false: the bill contained no such language. (An earlier version might have been interpreted in this way, but the provision was removed.) Yet, as I write, the Los Angeles Times has not corrected the piece that contained the error. . . .

Such through-the-looking-glass analysis riddled [the five] news articles and four op-eds the New York Times has published on the matter at the time of this writing. In these pieces, “democracy” is defined as results favored by the New York Times editorial board, and Israel’s national self-understanding as in irrevocable conflict with its democratic form of government. . . .

The truth is that democracy is thriving in Israel. . . .  The New York Times quoted Avi Shilon, a historian at Ben-Gurion University, who said [that] “Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues are acting like we are still in the battle of 1948, or in a previous era.” Judging by the fallacious, paranoid, fevered, and at times bigoted reaction to the nation-state bill, however, Bibi may have good reason to believe that Israel is still in the battle of 1948, and still defending itself against assaults on the very idea of a Jewish state.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel's Basic Law, Israeli democracy, Media, New York Times