Updates from Israel and the Jewish World
compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Thursday that Israel may have no choice but to embark on a military operation in Gaza to overthrow Hamas.
“It looks like there will be no other choice but to embark on a wide scale campaign in Gaza,” Netanyahu said in an interview with Kan Reshet Bet Radio shortly before he boarded a flight to Moscow where he is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“There probably won’t be a choice but to topple the Hamas regime. Hamas doesn’t exert its sovereignty in the Strip and doesn’t prevent attacks,” he said. “We have a situation in which a terror group that launches rockets has taken over, and doesn’t rein in rogue factions even when it wants to.”
Netanyahu’s comments also came two days after a campaign rally in the southern city of Ashdod was interrupted by incoming rocket sirens after rockets were fired from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
The prime minister said he wasn’t fazed by the rocket alert sirens when he was taken to safety by his security guards and that it was “absurd” if he remained on stage.
“I was calm and collected, I spoke quietly to the people in the audience and told them to evacuate,” Netanyahu said. “I wouldn’t stand there like some kind of macho, telling everyone to stand still with me so we can all get hit by a missile. I acted in accordance with the Shin Bet protocol, that’s what you should do in these situations … anyone who tells you otherwise is being irresponsible,”
In the interview, Netanyahu criticized his own ministers who have been calling for the IDF to attack Hamas.
“Stop agitating for an operation in Gaza,” Netanyahu said. “There will be an operation but I will not embark on it a moment before we are ready. I don’t base my policy on tweets.”
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigor Liberman tweeted in response to Netanyahu’s comments, saying that “Bibi will go to an operation in Gaza after he annexes the Jordan Valley and Elkana, and he will do all of this only after his next meeting with Boris Yeltsin, of blessed memory.”
Liberman’s tweet referred to Netanyahu calling Britain’s prime minister Boris Yeltsin in Sunday’s cabinet meeting.
On the tarmac before boarding the plane to Moscow Netanyahu said that the goal of his trip to Russia is to maintain Israel freedom of action in Syria.
“This is a very important trip. We are currently operating in several arenas, at 360 degrees, to ensure Israel’s security, in the face of attempts by Iran and its proxies to attack us,” he said.
“This trip aims to continue this important coordination that prevents our collision with the Russian forces,” Netanyahu said, adding that the ultimate goal in Syria is to force Iran out of Syria, a goal that “is far from being achieved.”
Emphasizing the importance of the operations in Syria and highlighting how crucial the coordination with Russia is in this perspective, the prime minister said it “is important for us to continue to maintain the IDF and IAF’s freedom of action against Iranian, Hezbollah and other terrorist targets.”
Speaking to Russian media ahead of his visit, Netanyahu said that through talks between him and Putin “we were able to avert a near-unavoidable crash between the Russian Air Force and our own forces during an operation in Syria.”
When asked about the relationship between Tehran and Moscow, he claimed “I don’t think Russia and Iran are getting closer, quite the opposite in fact, I see many situations in which [Russians] and Iranians have different interests.”
On Wednesday, Moscow condemned Netanyahu’s intention to annex the Jordan Valley if he wins next week’s election, warning that this could lead to an “escalation” in the region.
The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that Moscow believes implementation of the plan “could lead to a sharp escalation of tension in the region and undermine hopes for the establishment of a long-awaited peace between Israel and the Arab neighbors.” (Jerusalem Post)
A senior U.S. official denied a report that Israel was likely being behind the placement of devices in the vicinity of the White House that can capture cellphone calls.
The story “is completely false. Absolutely false,” Noga Tarnopolsky, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, quoted the official as saying.
Politico in the article published online Thursday cited three unnamed former senior officials with “knowledge of the matter.”
Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, vigorously denied the report. Israel has pledged since the 1986 capture of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard not to spy on the United States, although since then there have been multiple instances of the countries accusing the other of spying, however. (JTA)
Interview recorded on Wednesday afternoon re the Israeli elections
Note the major difference from the April election earlier this year:
This time, some of those party leaders who may be critical to the candidate selected by President Rivlin to try forming a government, are not pre locked into recommending anyone for PM.
Last time Lieberman for example, went into the election promising to nominate Netanyahu and only Netanyahu for PM. This time not.
The same applies however to some in potentially, or nominally, Gantz’s block – they too are now fluid. Labor (in particular the Orly Levy Abekasis faction) for example.
Note also that in Israel’s proportional representation system, voter turnout will be critical.
The Israeli Arab vote too, may have an important role this time round.
And two interesting aspects that influence Netanyahu’s image in the electorate.
1 – the role of President Trump. Before the April elections he took a number of positive measures designed to show that his relationship with Netanyahu was a big plus for Israel. This time he has been largely absent, with some potential negatives, such as the firing of his US National Security Advisor John Bolton, regarded as one of Israel’s staunchest allies in the administration and a hawk on Iran. This is causing some concern in Israel.
There is still time for Trump to make a grand gesture before the election if he so chooses, but……………
2 – the role of President Putin. Before the April elections he too took a number of positive steps demonstrating the benefits to Israel of Netanyahu’s close relationship to him. Leaks from their meeting in Sochi during the week, have contained some less positive outcomes where Putin has constrained certain Israeli actions in Syria and warned against Netanyahu’s annexation promise re the Jordan Valley.
The final polls released ahead of next week’s election indicated that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was inching his way closer to being able to form a right-wing coalition, but still falling just short of the mark.
In the Channel 12 and 13 surveys released Friday, which under Israeli law was the last day polls were allowed to be published before the September 17 vote, Netanyahu’s Likud party and its centrist rival Blue and White were in a dead heat. However, Netanyahu’s potential right-wing coalition moved up to 59 and 58 seats in the respective surveys. Sixty-one seats are needed for a majority in the 120-seat Knesset.
Most polls in recent months had Netanyahu’s right-wing and religious partners at 55 or 56 seats, with the rise in Friday’s polls indicating that momentum was with them in the final days before the election.
Analysts on Channel 12 noted that the right-wing bloc has traditionally also fared better in the actual vote, compared to the polls, potentially heralding good news for its constituent parties.
Camil Fuchs, the pollster who conducted the Channel 13 survey, also highlighted the difficulty of polling in the ultra-Orthodox community and said his results could be underestimating Shas and United Torah Judaism’s actual electoral strength.
Analysts also said that a low turnout was expected amid voter apathy, but he ultra-Orthodox community might duck that trend, with rabbis calling on their constituency to vote.
In both of Friday’s surveys, Likud and Blue and White were each predicted to win 32 seats. The two parties received 35 seats apiece in elections in April.
Following Likud and Blue and White in the Friday polls was the Joint List, an alliance of Arab and majority Arab parties. Channel 13 gave the Joint List 12 seats, two more than it received in the Channel 12 poll.
The four parties that make up the Joint List ran on two separate slates in April’s election and received 10 seats between them.
In the Channel 13 poll, Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu was predicted to get nine seats, and eight seats in the Channel 12 poll.
Though more than the five seats Yisrael Beytenu received in the last elections, the results were less than the 10 seats the party had polled around in recent months after Liberman helped precipitate the fresh round of elections by rejecting Netanyahu’s offers to join his prospective government.
Among Netanyahu’s political allies, Yamina, a coalition of national-religious parties, got nine seats in the Channel 13 poll and eight in the Channel 12 survey. United Torah Judaism received eight and seven seats respectively from Channels 12 and 13, while the fellow ultra-Orthodox Shas party received seven seats from Channel 12 and six from Channel 13.
The polls also indicated that the left-wing parties were hemorrhaging support.
The left-wing Democratic Camp alliance received six seats in the Channel 12 poll and five from Channel 13.
Labor, which is running together with former MK Orly Levy-Abekasis’s Gesher party, got five seats from Channel 12 and four from Channel 13, both of which would mark an all-time low for the party whose previous iterations led Israel for nearly 30 years after the state’s founding.
Channel 12 said there was concern in Blue and White that if it campaigned too aggressively it could siphon off enough votes from the left-wing parties as to put them in danger of not crossing the threshold.
Blue and White would need Labor and the Democratic Camp in any coalition it hopes to form.
Rounding out both polls was the extreme-right Otzma Yehudit party with four seats.
Also on Friday, Netanyahu launched a campaign to convince right-wing voters not to support Otzma Yehudit, saying internal polling indicated it would not pass the 3.25 percent threshold.
“After a thorough examination and lots of polls that we did, it is clear beyond any doubt that Otzma Yehudit won’t pass the minimum electoral threshold,” Netanyahu said in a campaign video. “Don’t throw your votes in the trash.”
Together with its right-wing and religious allies, Likud had 59 seats in the Channel 12 poll and 58 in the Channel 13 survey.
Though the last polls before past elections have noticeably differed from the election results, the current forecasts again position Yisrael Beytenu to be coalition kingmaker. Liberman has vowed to force a national unity government between Likud and Blue and White if neither can form a government without Yisrael Beytenu.
According to the Channel 12 poll, 40 percent of voters want a secular national government, while 29% want a government of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties. Another 7% want a coalition of the Orthodox and center-left parties. The rest were undecided.
If like after April’s elections, Netanyahu is unable to form a government, 45% of Likud voters told Channel 12 he should stay on as the leader of the ruling party, compared to 36% who said he should hand over the keys to another Likud member.
Blue and White has said it would be open to a coalition with Likud, but not under Netanyahu.
Additionally, 65% of percent of the poll respondents told the network that they don’t want a third round of elections.
The current round of elections was called after Liberman refused to join a Netanyahu-led government unless a bill formalizing exemptions to mandatory military service for seminary students was passed without changes, a demand rejected by the premier’s ultra-Orthodox partners.
Without Yisrael Beytenu, Netanyahu was one seat short of a majority and rather than having another lawmaker get a crack at stringing together a government, he pushed through vote to dissolve the Knesset and call a snap poll.
Netanyahu’s failure to form a government after April’s elections and his move to subsequently call a new vote marked the first time in Israeli history that elections failed to result in the formation of a new ruling coalition.
The Channel 12 survey, conducted by pollster Manu Geva, had 605 respondents and a 4% margin of error. The Channel 13 poll included 943 respondents and 3.2% margin of error. (the Times of Israel)
Speaking at ceremony for fallen Artillery Corps soldiers, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi says that the enemy has become terrorist armies armed with missiles, and the IDF must change accordingly. Kochavi also says army has an obligation to bring home missing and captive soldiers.
In the past few decades, Israel’s enemies have changed from guerilla cells to terrorist armies, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi said Thursday at a memorial ceremony in Zikhron Yaakov honoring fallen soldiers from the IDF’s Artillery Corps.
“The enemy is organized in brigades and platoons, armed with missiles, rockets, and advanced weaponry, and is operating from inside densely-populated urban areas, with a civilian population that it sees as living flak jackets,” Kochavi said.
“The changes in the enemy demand that the IDF make changes and adjust its forces and methods of warfare, so urban areas cannot shield the enemy. The firepower the enemy will encounter in the next war will be unprecedented, and a country that allows terrorism to entrench itself in its territory will be seen as responsible for it, and suffer the consequences,” Kochavi warned.
“The IDF has a moral obligation to defend the nation’s citizens against the armies of terrorism that surround them. When the Israeli homefront is under threat by thousands of missiles and rockets, we won’t hesitate to strike a massive blow to eradicate those threats. We will attack and preserve our values, but a main tenet of those values is the need to protect our citizens,” he said.
Kochavi said that the fallen were remembered, but the living also had an obligation to return Israel’s missing and captive soldiers and citizens, including Artillery Corps Staff Sgt. Guy Hever.
“We will not cease our efforts to fulfill that obligation and I am holding the hands of the families in pain. That is a goal for entire IDF and the Artillery Corps in particular, which plays a key role in war,” Kochavi said.
Commander of the Artillery Corps, Brig. Gen. Aviram Sela, addressed the bereaved families.
“Time does not blunt or ease [pain]. Pain hurts, and the longing never stops. Our legacy is our strength – the glorious legacy our heroes left us, the ones whose names are engraved on this wall.”
Meanwhile, tensions in the western Negev are expected to remain high over the weekend after a few fraught days of rocket fire from Gaza and IDF airstrikes in response. (Israel Hayom)
Israel warmly welcomed President Donald Trump’s announcement on Saturday that he spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “to discuss the possibility of moving forward with a mutual defense treaty, between the United States and Israel, that would further anchor the tremendous alliance between our two countries.”
“I look forward to continuing those discussions after the Israeli elections when we meet at the United Nations later this month,” Trump added.
The two leaders are slated to meet on the sidelines of the United Nation’s General Assembly in New York at the end of the month, assuming Netanyahu establishes a coalition after Tuesday’s elections.
Netanyahu responded by thanking his “dear friend.”
“The Jewish State has never had a greater friend in the White House. I look forward to our meeting at the UN to advance a historic Defense Treaty between the United States and Israel,” he said.
“Together, we will continue full steam ahead with our common battle against terrorism,” he added, congratulating Trump on his latest success against Bin Laden’s son. He was referring to Saturday’s news that Ben Laden’s son Hamza was killed in an American strike. He is considered Bin Laden’s successor in leading the al-Qaeda terror organization.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz likewise welcomed the announcement.
“I am in favor of a definite defense alliance between the US and Israel against Iran in the nuclear and missile fields, which will not restrict Israel’s activities in other areas,” he stated.
“An alliance with the powerful superpower in the world will be a historic achievement that will greatly contribute to Israel’s strength,” he said.
Such a military alliance would ensure mutual support and a promise to defend each other. The signatories outline the threats in the treaty and concretely prepare to respond to them together.
Katz appears to support a treaty limited in scope that would pertain to the Iranian threat, but would leave Israel free to act alone against other threats, such as the one posed by Hamas from the Gaza Strip or the one by Hezbollah from Lebanon. (United with Israel)
by Cameron Stewart The Australian
Martin Indyk’s phone won’t stop ringing in his office at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. US President Donald Trump has just sacked his third national security adviser, John Bolton, while in Israel a few hours earlier Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to annex a large chunk of the West Bank if he wins next week’s general election.
These events mean that Indyk, the Australian-educated two-time US ambassador to Israel and former National Security Council member in Bill Clinton’s White House, is in high demand for comment from the US media.
“The departure of Bolton suggests that President Trump is going to be his own foreign policy adviser,” he tells The New York Times in a quote that will appear on the front page the next day.
At 68, Indyk, a distinguished fellow at prestigious US think tank the Council on Foreign Relations and a former executive vice-president at the Brookings Institution, is one of America’s most sought-after experts on US foreign policy, especially on the Middle East.
Right now Indyk is watching a confluence of events that will help determine the future of US policy in the Middle East with ramifications for allies such as Australia. On Tuesday Israel goes to the polls in an election that could end the era of Netanyahu, its longest serving prime minister, or extend his reign and reshape Israel’s footprint in the occupied territories. Soon after that election, perhaps even within days, Trump says he will release his long-awaited Middle East peace plan, which he has dubbed “the deal of the century”.
At the same time, the Trump White House is struggling to deal with a more assertive and aggressive Iran as it stares down the US in protest against crippling sanctions imposed on it by Washington.
Trump’s decision to sack Bolton reflected growing differences on a range of issues including Iran, where Bolton unsuccessfully tried to push Trump to launch a military strike over its recent downing of a US drone. Indyk says Bolton’s overly hawkish views on Iran have helped lead Trump down the wrong road on dealing with Tehran. More broadly, he says Trump’s overall policy approach to the Middle East has been poorly advised and badly executed.
“When it comes to the Middle East, Trump is effectively subcontracting to Israel and Saudi Arabia, and that can’t work, it isn’t working,” he tells Inquirer. “It doesn’t work for the peace process, as we can see, and it hasn’t worked for Arab-Israeli relations. These things, I think, are a real setback for American interests.”
Indyk, who was the US special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations from 2013 to 2014, says there is “zero chance” the Trump White House will produce a plan that will revive the stalled peace process.
“One leading indicator of the expectations for this plan is that Jason Greenblatt, who is Trump’s envoy for the negotiations, has resigned before the plan has come out,” he says. “If he expected that this plan would lead to negotiations he would not be resigning.”
Indyk expects the administration’s plan, which is said to be 60 pages long, will take the form of a vague “vision” for the region rather than a document that can work towards solutions.
“In terms of process, I don’t see how a 60-page document can be the basis for negotiation,” he says.
“A two-page document which laid out the basis for the negotiations could, but not 60 pages. In terms of acceptance there is zero chance that the Palestinians will accept it because it will not see their minimum requirements of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital.”
Indyk says Trump’s peace plan was effectively dead from the moment the administration moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the disputed city of Jerusalem.
“The peace process had a design fault from that time on,” says Indyk. “It was engineered for failure because there was no way they were going to get the Palestinians to engage.”
Trump’s strong support for Netanyahu is largely driven by the belief of both leaders that they can help each other to get re-elected, Indyk says. Trump has been a far more pro-Israel president than his predecessor, Barack Obama. He has moved the US embassy to Jerusalem, recognised Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights, supported Netanyahu’s expansionist policies in the occupied territories and adopted a far tougher stance against Iran, including withdrawing from the nuclear deal. Indyk says Netanyahu’s statement this week that he would seize on the historic opportunity given to him by a sympathetic White House to annex nearly a third of the occupied West Bank if he were re-elected would be a generational blow to peace.
“There is no way that Israel can go ahead and annex the Jordan Valley and expect to have peace with the Palestinians. That is critical territory for the Palestinian state, which is the minimum the Palestinians would require to make peace with Israel,” he says. If the Trump administration backs such a move, as Netanyahu claims, it will be “a recipe for continued conflict”.
“If Trump has in mind green-lighting a (partial) annexation of the Jordan Valley then that’s not a peace plan; that’s a plan for peace between the US and Israel, it’s a plan for the right-wing annexationists and it’s a plan for a one-state solution, which is not a solution at all.”
Indyk says Trump’s support for Netanhayu, which has proved divisive with American Jews, is driven more by domestic US politics than by geo-strategic calculations.
“Trump’s peace plan has morphed from being a plan to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians to a plan to help get Netanyahu re-elected in return for Netanyahu helping to get Trump re-elected,” he says. “The key here for Trump is the (vote of the) US evangelicals. It’s not the American Jews because the vast majority of American Jews vote Democrat. But the evangelicals care deeply about Israel and appreciate what Trump has done for Israel and appreciate it when Netanyahu says he is the best president Israel has ever had, so that’s a critical part of Trump’s base.”
The Democrats gave Trump “a gift” with controversial anti-Israeli comments made by Democratic congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, members of the so-called Squad, Indyk adds.
“That gave Trump the ability to try to paint the Democratic Party as anti-Semitic, and I don’t think anyone really takes it seriously, but he is trying to drive a wedge between the Democratic Party and American Jews. I don’t believe he will succeed but that is his purpose. The way he did it most recently by questioning the loyalty of American Jews … saying they should be loyal to Israel is something that is very dangerous and yet Netanyahu did not say a word. So I think it is an informal pact they have reached that he will do what he can do to get Bibi elected and in exchange Bibi will help him.”
Indyk says if the results of the Israel election reflect current polling then Netanyahu’s prospects of forming a working coalition of 61 seats in the 120-seat Knesset are unlikely. He says in some ways the election will be a referendum on Netanyahu, who faces indictment on corruption charges and has had a larger-than-life presence in Israeli politics for a generation.
“He has dominated the Israeli political scene for more than a decade and he has made this election very much about himself,” he says. “The fact that he is likely to be indicted within a month of the elections also ensures that it’s going to be focused on him.”
On Iran, Indyk says the US has lost the advantage it had in negotiations with Tehran because the White House has overplayed its hand and provoked Iran to step up its aggression. He says the US decision last year to leave the Iran nuclear deal and impose tough economic sanctions on Tehran initially led to a relatively muted response from Iran. “The Iranians were kind of hunkering down in the face of this intense economic pressure from the sanctions hoping to wait Trump out while staying within the nuclear deal hoping to split the Europeans off from Trump,” he says. “So in a sense Trump was winning the game.”
But he says when Trump went a step further by designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as terrorists and further increasing economic pressure, sending Iran’s economy deep into negative territory, he provoked Tehran to become more assertive.
“They decided to show Trump that they could hurt him in every area that mattered to him,” he says. This included attacks on tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, attacking Saudi oil infrastructure, threatening US troops in Iraq and a step-by-step flouting of the terms of the nuclear deal.
“It put Trump in a tighter and tighter corner. He had to decide whether he was going to respond by confronting them.”
But Indyk says Trump then made the mistake of blinking in June when he initially ordered a military strike against Iran for the shooting down of a US drone, only to reverse the order several hours later. As a result, Indyk says, Iran is much more confident that Trump will not pursue armed conflict.
“Trump’s advisers, Bolton and (Secretary of State Mike) Pompeo, should never have put him up to it, one drone being shot down is not a basis for a strike on Iran,” he says. “Trump doesn’t want a war and they don’t want a war, but they have won this round.”
Australia is correct to stand alongside the US in helping enforce safe passage of oil supplies through the Strait of Hormuz against Iranian attacks, Indyk says. “Australia has always been there in every circumstance when the United States has needed military assistance and I think that one would have to say, looking back over the years, with the exception of Vietnam, I think paying that premium has been basically a worthwhile policy from a strategic point of view.
“And given that Australia, like all America’s allies, are now dealing with a mercurial and unreliable President who has a kneejerk disdain for allies who aren’t pulling their weight in his terms, I think it is probably a prudent thing for Australia to do.”
Indyk, who was born in London to Jewish immigrants from Poland, was reared in Sydney, attending the University of Sydney and then the Australian National University. His brother and their family still live in Australia and he visits them each year. He moved to the US in 1992 and became a US citizen the following year. “But you can’t take the Australian out of the American,” he says. “Australia is still very much in my heart.”
In a glittering CV, Indyk says the best job he has had were his two terms as US ambassador from 1995 to 1997 and again from 2000 to 2001, during a turbulent era in Israel. “It was really difficult and in the end disastrous with (prime minister) Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, the Intifada, but there were also some very high points like the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, the Oslo Accords; we did some great things,” he says.
“Being an ambassador on the front lines of American diplomacy at a time when the US was heavily involved in trying to make peace was just an amazing experience and a real privilege.”
Jordan Valley Needed to Protect Israel from Threats to the East – Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
The Arab countries roundly – if rather perfunctorily – condemned Prime Minister Netanyahu’s announced intent to extend Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley. Dore Gold, the head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a former director-general of the Israel Foreign Ministry, said that the muted response has to do with “understanding very well…the Iranian threat to the eastern portion of the Arab world.”
He said that there is a degree of understanding about the context of the move, and how it has “strategic military significance” in checking malign Iranian intentions in the region.
Gold noted that one of the significant aspects of Netanyahu’s announcement was that he presented a map where he defined the area that he feels is necessary for Israel’s security, and that the map he used is very close to the one that Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon proposed soon after the 1967 war.
Gold said that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin also adhered to the Allon Plan to retain the Jordan Valley, saying in his final address to the Knesset in 1995 that in any future agreement, “the Jordan Valley in the widest sense of that term would be the security border of the State of Israel.”
At the time, Gold said, “Israeli planners were largely preoccupied with the future threat of an Iraq expeditionary force that could cross Jordan in 35 hours.”
While Saddam Hussein has been eliminated, he said, the threat to Israel from the east did not disappear, since Iran “is very actively trying to project its military power westward toward the Mediterranean.”
Iranian, Hizbullah Escalations Force Israel to Rewrite Self-Defense Rules – Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser (Investigative Project on Terrorism)
Iran is concentrating all its resources today trying to save the formidable benefits it gained in the Iran nuclear deal (the JCPOA). In the eyes of the Islamic regime in Tehran, the deal is worth keeping even after the U.S. withdrawal because it allows Iran to move safely towards attaining a large arsenal of nuclear weapons in 11 years.
It could not make it to the first bomb before the deal, because Iran could not safely cross the threshold between accumulating enough enriched uranium to produce a bomb and actually making one. In addition, the deal legitimized Iranian efforts to develop long-range missiles and its wide intervention in Middle Eastern countries, and provided Iran with the financial resources necessary to pursue these policies.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei reacted to the American maximum pressure by turning to brinkmanship – taking action that clearly demonstrates to the U.S. that pressuring Iran is costly and could trigger unwanted escalation. He hopes to force the U.S. to succumb to Iranian pressure and ease the sanctions to avoid escalation.
Israel always considered the JCPOA as a dangerous and disastrous deal. It wants to make sure that the U.S. preserves its position of strength if and when negotiations with Iran start on a new agreement.
Iran’s multi-national arms build-up forced Israel to alter its defensive strategies, triggering new and aggressive actions in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, where Iran stores medium-range rockets that can reach Israel at camps controlled by Shiite militias. It is understood in the region that Israel was forced to behave this way by Iran.
Israel has proved again that it enjoys a profound intelligence dominance (manifested by the Mossad seizing the nuclear archives from Tehran) and air superiority over Iran and its proxies. Israel has shown that it can protect itself and foil attempts to hurt it. Israel also proved beyond a shadow of a doubt to be a strategic asset for the U.S., for the pragmatic Arab states, and for the liberal democracies.
The writer, former head of the IDF Military Intelligence Research Division and director general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry, is director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.