By Avi Temkinin
In the coming days, we will hear a lot about Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s supposed “victory” after entering a room with US President Barack Obama, and emerging with alleged “freedom of action on Iran”. If Netanyahu is lucky, the public debate will also focus on the niceties of what he achieved and did not achieve, and Israelis will continue to ignore the questions that should worry all of us.
First question: Who will join the sanctions?
First is the matter of the sanctions on Iran. According the Israeli government’s current version, the international sanctions against Iran are necessary, but also ineffective. Anyone who tries to understand Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak’s arguments is left with the following puzzle: since the embargo on Iranian oil exports has been delayed until summer, and because China, Russia, and India are not participating, then the sanctions are ineffective and Israel has no choice but to act alone. But if that is case, why should Western countries bother to impose sanctions on Iran, if they will not be implemented in full? If Israel thinks that it must solve the Iran problem on its own, why does it need to persuade nations to participate in measures that it deems ineffective?
Second question: What is the threat?
The second question is about the nature of the Iranian threat, and what the solution ought to be. Both the current and previous Israeli governments have correctly argued that Iran does not threaten only Israel, but the whole world. But when the Israeli government claims the right to decide on its own, without taking into consideration what the world thinks about how to deal with Iran, it simply undermines the basis of its own argument about the global nature of the threat of an Iranian atomic bomb.
In other words, if Israel claims that it can and should deal with the Iranian atomic bomb unilaterally, why should the world worry about how to cope with the matter?
Third question: What are 500 dead worth?
The third question relates to what Israel can actually do on its own, and what it will get for action against Iran. If the reports about Israel’s demands are true, it wants the world to bring about a situation in which Iran not only cannot have a Bomb, but is denied even the ability to make one.
From Netanyahu’s remarks to AIPAC – Israelis have not yet merited to hear from their prime minister exactly what he thinks on this point – we understand that sanctions and international action will not and cannot eliminate Iran’s ability to build a nuclear weapon. Does this mean that a unilateral Israeli attack will succeed in destroying this capability entirely, in other words, destroy all the uranium Iran has enriched beyond 3% and all its facilities?
To be honest, the IDF cannot make such a promise if it has to operate alone against Iran. We are therefore left with a question of cost versus benefit. What degree of destruction can the IDF wreak that will make the human and economic price Israel will pay worthwhile? Does the destruction of 60% of Iran’s nuclear capability justify 500 dead Israelis? 50%?
Will the destruction of two-thirds of Iran’s nuclear facilities console Israelis for the economic devastation, and the slashes in health, education and welfare spending for years to come? Even if the IDF can promise great destruction, say 75% of Iran’s facilities, can it guarantee the breaking of Iran’s will to rebuild them?
Fourth question: What will Iran gain?
To tell the truth, an Iran after an Israeli attack would be in pretty good shape. Firstly, its consent will be required in order to achieve a cease-fire and and to stabilize the Persian Gulf, and it will exact an appropriate political price. In other words, its international isolation would end.
Secondly, Iran’s oil revenues will soar – sanctions will collapse in the aftermath of an Israeli attack – and they will be able to finance the rebuilding of everything that was destroyed, especially as they will present this as a critical need in view of the unilateral Israeli attack. How many years will Israel gain in these circumstances? Will Israel’s people agree to the huge human, economic, and political cost of achieving a delay in Iran’s nuclear program – assuming it is delayed at all? Will the world, even the Americans, agree to be recruited to another campaign against Iran’s armament program?
Ultimately, this is the fine print in Netanyahu’s marketing campaign to sell an Iranian war. The unspoken fact is that it would not eliminate an Iranian Bomb, but merely delay it for a while. Who knows, maybe by then something will happen to the Iranian duck. Maybe the Messiah will come.
Fifth question: How much did Netanyahu’s speech cost us?
We now come to the question of all the talk, such as Netanyahu’s speech to AIPAC. How much will his speech cost the Israeli economy? How much extra interest will Israeli companies and financial institutions have to pay for a rise in the risk of war? How many factories will be asked by their customers whether they will move their production lines abroad to ensure that delivery contracts will be met on time? How much of the savings in the capital market will be wiped out?
What did Israel’s people actually get from Netanyahu’s Iranian duck speech? Is there anyone who didn’t know before that Israel was concerned? Is there anyone who didn’t undertsand that there is a military option? What was the point of this warmongering speech? Was it for the benefit of Israelis, or for that of Obama’s Republican opponents? The answers probably not be forthcoming any time soon.