World powers today announced a final agreement with Iran over its nuclear program, a 100 plus page document known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The deal, set to expire after 10 years, critics have argued, will give Iran billions in sanctions relief, lack enforceable inspection protocols or an effective means to re-impose sanctions if needed and will suspend the UN arms embargo after five years.
One of the first in the inevitable string of op-eds in the British media in support of the deal was published at the Financial Times by their chief political commentator Philip Stephens (Three cheers for a flawed deal, July 14). After applauding the deal in the first paragraph as “more unpalatable” than all the other alternatives, Stephens jumps to attacking the Israeli prime minister’s opposition to the agreement.
Benjamin Netanyahu will not agree. The Israeli prime minister’s fulminations against the Tehran regime have grown louder and, it must be said, somewhat delusional. The other day, Mr Netanyahu said that Iran’s goal “is to take over the world”. Iran has been ruthless in promoting its Shia proxies as much of the Arab state system has fallen into collapse, but taking over the world? Mr Netanyahu’s answer to Tehran’s nuclear programme has long been to start another war.
Of course, Netanyahu has not campaigned “to start a war with Iran”, despite the regime’s long-standing threat to wipe the Jewish state off the map. He, along with Israeli leaders from across the political spectrum, has argued that the world powers should hold out for a better deal, one which keeps sanctions in place until the Islamic Republic – a leading state sponsors of terror according the US – actually rolls back its nuclear program.
Moreover, the charge that Netanyahu is “delusional” is not a one-off for Stephens. In 2012, he published a diatribe against the Israeli leader in a political “analysis” bizarrely titled ‘Winning wars will not make Israel safe‘.
The piece, written just after the 8 day Gaza war (Operation Pillar of Defense) ended, argued that Netanyahu’s motives for the war were not merely protecting the country from Hamas rockets (hundreds of which were fired at Israeli towns in the months leading to the conflict), but to gain an electoral advantage.
Israel’s escalation of the conflict in Gaza can be seen as a simple act of deterrence: every nation has the right to defend itself. Mr Netanyahu’s record suggests more complicated motives. He is fighting an election; and he wants to forestall any effort by Barack Obama’s administration to restart peace negotiations. This summer Mr Obama vetoed an Israeli attack on Iran. Mr Netanyahu does not intend to give ground on Palestine.
This is of a piece with the reactionary world view of the Israeli prime minister. Almost everything has changed in the Middle East; Mr Netanyahu has not. He lives in the shadow of a war hero brother, who perished during the Israeli rescue of hostages at Entebbe, and a father who believed Arabs would never make peace with Jews. As long as Hamas can be cast as terrorists, Mr Netanyahu can refuse to talk peace. The unspoken delusion is that Israel’s security can be forever underwritten by military victories.
The parallel with Iran is anyway an uncomfortable one. Ayatollah Khamenei is a fellow reactionary. He shares Mr Netanyahu’s view that military force is the sole source of security.
Of course, it isn’t merely Netanyahu who ‘casts’ Hamas as terrorists. The US, EU and UK does as well. The Islamist terror group, funded to the tune of billions of dollars by Iran, openly calls for the mass murder of Jews and – like its Iranian sponsor – is committed to Israel’s annihilation. Further, it takes a breathtaking amount naiveté to imagine that the regime won’t use a good portion of the money it receives from the deal’s sanction relief to increase its funding to terror groups – such as Hamas and Hezbollah – on Israel’s borders.
What’s truly ‘delusional’ is buying into the notion that you can make peace with fanatics who insist they want war, and the suggestion – not uncommon among reflexively anti-Israel British columnists – that there’s some sort of moral equivalence between Holocaust denying antisemitic extremists and the Jews they’re trying to kill.