The clichés are familiar: you have to be smart. And another: energy and perseverance triumph over everything. The reality is a little different: sometimes intelligence is not enough, nor energy and perseverance. Sometimes events are simply beyond Israel’s control.
We are probably getting closer to such a lesson on Iran. In 2015, President Barack Obama decided to sign an agreement with Iran. Israel went to great lengths to prevent the deal. It didn’t help. The agreement has been signed. True, later it was canceled. But the cancellation had a price, to be paid now, in any new agreement. It’s a deal that President Joe Biden seems to want to sign. In Biden’s case, Israel has changed its policy and its tone. Instead of the aggressive and public approach, he launched a silent dialogue. The result looks similar to that produced by the previous approach. Or maybe a little worse? Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday the upcoming deal would be weaker than its predecessor.
What is the lesson in all of this? A lesson is unclear. Proponents of the current Israeli line would say that instead of double damage – both a deal with Iran and a squabble with Israel’s American friends – we now see only one damage – the imminent agreement. At least, they say, we have a close relationship with the administration.
This is a possible conclusion, but not the only one. Proponents of the aggressive approach (i.e. Benjamin Netanyahu) will say that if a deal with Iran is reached, it is better for Israel to accept it under fierce and blatant protest, so as not to give the impression that Israel is ready to live with it. A clear protest opens the door to later change when, say, Donald Trump is re-elected president, or Nicki Haley, or Ron DeSantis.
There is also a clearer and more precise lesson to be learned, and Bennett seems to have missed it. He said earlier this week that “Israel will not accept Iran as a nuclear threshold state.” This is similar to previous statements about what Israel will or will not accept about an Iran nuclear deal. That is to say, a statement that has no connection with a reality over which Israel has no control.
In other words: just as in the case of the agreement, when it was proven that two different approaches could not prevent it, the same is true in the case of Iran as a nuclear power. . Israel can “accept” or “not accept” the reality. The ultimate question will not be whether Israel accepts reality, but whether Iran is a nuclear threshold state, and it is by no means certain that Israel has the ability to prevent such a scenario from materializing. . Maybe yes. We all hope so. But we cannot be sure. If it had been simple, if it had been foolproof, Israel would probably do it already.
The implication of this understanding is that Israel must prepare, as Prime Minister Bennett also said. It is essential to prepare for an agreement that will compromise stability in the Middle East. It is essential to prepare for a weak agreement that will allow Iran to continue to advance its nuclear program.
As for America, the next test of Israel’s current approach will be the ability of Bennett’s government to get something tangible in exchange for its tacit acceptance of the nuclear deal. Not that they agree to the deal – they agree to keep relatively quiet. At least until now. A grateful administration (as the Israeli government hopes) will provide Israel with more means to deal with the consequences of the agreement. And forgive me for being a little suspicious of this possibility. The administration is going to want to make sure that the compensation for Israel would not allow Israel to take actions that would undermine the deal.
That’s really the goal. The interests of Israel and America are different. And the public seems to understand this as much as the leaders. Even among Republican voters, there is no clear majority opposing a deal (see a recent Morning Consult poll). In fact, Netanyahu would probably look at the numbers and say “I told you so”. He would say, not without reason, that if Israel had protested more vigorously, at least the proportion of Republicans who oppose a deal would have been higher (to which Bennett would reply: yes, but that comes at a price on the other side ).
Israel and America disagree on Iran. This was as true when Netanyahu spoke as when Bennett was subdued.
Thus, Israel and America do not agree on Iran. This was as true when Netanyahu spoke as when Bennett was subdued. Israel expects from the Americans the kind of support it could get in another era. But in the current era, of the battle with China, of focusing on domestic issues, of trying to ease the burden of being a global policeman, of energy independence – in the current era, the Israel’s concerns are, well, less important to US administrations.
It should be said, clearly and calmly: Israel is less important to Americans. And that too, as Bennett says, is something Israel must be prepared for.
Something I wrote in Hebrew
Israel’s finance minister is trying to lure ultra-Orthodox men into the job market. Here’s something I wrote about his plan:
The habits of ultra-Orthodox society cannot be changed in one or two years. The first reaction of ultra-Orthodox communities to the Lieberman decrees will be to wait…If the government disintegrates in six months or a year, it is unlikely that it can anchor the necessary changes and make them irreversible…change is conditional on the habituation of a new generation of ultra-Orthodox men to conditions they won’t want to back down… If 200,000 men go out to work and do it long enough to get used to it, and decide that it’s good for them, only then would the ultra-Orthodox leaders no longer be able to persuade them to abandon the new lifestyle to which they were accustomed.
One week numbers
Are we still “people of the book”? These are the figures of Israel. And note the exact language: it’s what Israelis say they read, not necessarily what they read (when asking such questions, consider social desirability).
Response from a reader:
Erwin Goldstein didn’t like the idea of an “Israeli century” that was featured in a cover story I wrote. Here is Goldstein’s comment: “Why do we have to choose between an ‘Israeli’ or an ‘American’ century – can’t we compromise on a common ‘Jewish century’? “.
Shmuel Rosner is a political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, visit Rosner’s domain at jewishjournal.com/rosnersdomain.