Israel’s Post-American Strategic Challenge
A report last week about the discussions Israel and the United States are now holding regarding the Iranian nuclear program was nothing short of an earthquake.
On Tuesday, Israel Hayom ran a red headline on its front page: “Iran is cozying up to moderate states, and Israel is worried.” The story, by military correspondent Yoav Limor, told us two deeply alarming things about the state of American-Israeli coordination on Iran’s nuclear program.
First, the Americans are not working with Israel to block Iran from becoming a nuclear power. They are working against Israel.
The Americans and Israelis agree that Iran is on the verge of becoming a nuclear breakout state, which can assemble nuclear weapons at will. But whereas they agree on the status of Iran’s quest for military nuclear capability, they disagree about what the response to the current state of Iran’s nuclear program should be.
Israel’s position is that the United States should take diplomatic and economic action, and at a minimum threaten military action if Iran refuses to reinstate the limitations on its nuclear activities set out in the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. The 2015 nuclear deal permitted Iran to enrich limited quantities of uranium to the level of 3.67 percent. Iran is currently enriching massive quantities of uranium to 60 percent—just a step away from weapons-grade.
U.S. ..administration is turning a blind eye to Iran’s export of massive quantities of oil and gas to China and other states, in breach of the sanctions. The Americans say they may be willing to consider taking diplomatic action of some form or another, but in exchange, they demand Israeli concessions to the Palestinians.
In short, Limor’s article reported that the United States has made clear to Israel that it will take no effective action to block Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
The second stunning bit of information in Limor’s article is that the Lapid-Bennett government has no idea what to do in the face of America’s position. Instead of accepting reality and moving to face Iran without the United States, Israel’s government is opting to cling ever tighter to Washington.
Limor wrote, “The Israeli effort to reach maximal cooperation with the U.S. is under way, among other reasons, because of the fact that Israel has very few options left.”
To maintain coordination with the administration, which does not share Israel’s goals, the Lapid-Bennett government has changed Israel’s goals. It now supports the Biden administration’s efforts to return the United States to the JCPOA. In 2018, then-President Donald Trump abandoned the deal because Iran negotiated it in bad faith and was systematically breaching the JCPOA’s limitations on its nuclear operations.
During his premiership, Benjamin Netanyahu opposed all aspects of the JCPOA, because he recognized that it facilitates and provides U.N. legitimacy for Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
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