Why Israel Won’t Abide Any Iran Nuclear Accord


Israel is unlikely to support any agreement that brings Iran into the international fold. (Image: ajagendorf25 / Flickr)

The interim nuclear deal that was finally clinched between Iran and the world powers in Geneva in last November has been hailed by many in the West as a historic breakthrough for international diplomacy.

In return for provisional and modest sanctions relief, the deal enforces measures that guarantee to curb, but not dismantle, Tehran’s nuclear activities in a verifiable fashion. Describing the accord as a “first step” that “achieves a great deal,” U.S. President Barack Obama asserted shortly after the conclusion of negotiations that “for the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back.”

“Simply put,” he added, the plan “cut[s] off Iran’s most likely paths to a bomb.”

Other Western governments, including the British and French, have made more or less optimistic pronouncements about the prospects for the interim Geneva pact to curtail nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and consolidate the structures of global security—it’s “good for the whole world,” as the UK foreign secretary summed up the accord.

But in Israel, where leaders have brushed aside assurances from Obama administration officials that the deal actually “makes Israel safer,” opposition to the hard-earned consensus borders on the obsessive.

Before details of the pact were even released, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had rushed to dismiss it as a “historic mistake,” refusing to abide by any deal that falls short of dismantling Tehran’s enrichment program once and for all—a longtime demand for the Israelis, but a nonstarter for the Iranians. “Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world,” Netanyahu stressed in his address to the weekly cabinet meeting held shortly after the talks. Echoing Bibi’s stringent stance, Israel’s minister of intelligence and strategic affairs, Yuval Steinitz, exhorted that “the current deal, like the 2007 failed deal with North Korea, is more likely to bring Iran closer to having a bomb.”

But Israeli politicians across the political spectrum are well aware that, given the magnitude of the political capital the international community has invested in resolving the dispute, it is simply too risky for Tehran to use the negotiations as a stratagem to outwit the world and work surreptitiously towards the acquisition of the bomb. Even if the Iranian leadership actually does harbor more sinister nuclear ambitions, it is rational enough not to take such a path under the existing circumstances, with the Islamic Republic just now managing after long years of costly mutual mistrust to restore a measure of confidence with the West. For Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s ultimate decision-maker in significant state affairs, any sort of double-crossing at this stage would be nothing less than suicidal, as it would offer a ready excuse for external intervention and a recipe for regime change. However intransigent and unreliable the Islamic Republic may otherwise prove to be, it will undoubtedly not fall into this trap.

And this is precisely what is unsettling Tel Aviv: any diplomatic resolution of Iran’s nuclear controversy will deprive Israeli hawks of what they see as the sole feasible justification to overthrow the Iranian regime by military force. The fact is, with or without a nuclear bomb, Israel deems Iran’s clerical regime an “existential threat” and is intent on deposing it. It’s not simply because of Iran’s nuclear program or bombastic anti-Israel rhetoric, but mainly because post-revolutionary Iran and its clients in the Levant stand as the chief impediments to Israeli hegemony in the Middle East.

In a rare interview with BBC Persian last October, Netanyahu warned that if Iran gets nuclear weapons, “this brutal regime will be immortal, like North Korea.” But more realistic observers have long accepted that, for better or worse, the Islamic Republic is here to stay anyway—at least absent an Iranian uprising (a prospect the Israelis gave up on some time ago) or a foreign invasion (which the Israelis hoped the nuclear imbroglio would trigger). By helping avert war, the landmark Geneva accord is now wearing away this golden nuclear option for regime change in Iran, hence Israel’s continuous insistence on keeping all options on the table and on asserting Israel’s right to self-defense (as if it had been repealed).

This also tells us a good deal about the Netanyahu government’s maximalist approach towards the international sanctions regime against Tehran: for Tel Aviv, sanctions are not merely an instrument of pressure to bring the Iranian leadership to its knees over the nuclear struggle, but primarily a “continuation of policy by other means”—an overarching strategy to wither out Iran as a whole, both as a state and as a nation.

Over the coming months, as the international community strives towards a “comprehensive” pact to resolve Iran’s nuclear dossier once and for all, Israel is sure to intensify its spoiler role to impede a final deal. As it is feeling betrayed by the United States, not least due to the secret U.S.-Iranian back channel talks prior to Geneva, the disruptive strategy will take the form of operations to “expose” Iranians’ putative breach of trust.

The greater challenge, however, is whether the Obama administration will manage to prevent the pro-Israeli elements in the U.S. Congress from ratcheting up sanctions against Iran while at the same time the administration is moving to soften them—a course of action that would undoubtedly kill any chances of reaching a final settlement. In the words of John Kerry, with the first step already taken, “now the really hard part begins.”

Maysam Behravesh is a PhD candidate in political science at Lund University, Sweden, and a Senior Editor of the journal Asian Politics & Policy (APP). Anders Persson is a Swedish expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has a PhD in political science from Lund.

  • Leon

    This article has nothing to do with political science, it is simply a presentation of the Iranian propaganda of the moment. There is not even a mention of the Saudi oppsition of obamas stance just to give an example. It is simply the ever hegemony hungry Israelis that want to wither the ever peace-loving nation of Iran. We heard it all in the eighties; do not listen to the Israelis ,we can and should find a modus vivendi with Saddam .Never mind Halabja …

  • Thor

    Remember the story America concocted with Israel’s help?
    It went something like this:
    Saddam has WMD and could launch an attack on the U.S, Britain, France invade all of Europe, China and establish a base on the moon, Mars and the moons of Jupiter!
    America was convinced by Israel that Saddam could at short notice launch his entire naval fleet of rowing boats, the last one of which would tow behind it in some Iraqi woman’s washing tub enough imaginary Atom Bombs to attack just about any country in the world!
    All the deaths of all the military personnel of the countries invading and occupying Iraq can be laid at the door of Israel!
    Bush has stated that the invasion of Iraq was to “secure” Israel!
    Now Israel is demanding America and Britain commands more of its soldiers to die on its behalf by responding to Iran’s retaliation for an attack by Israel’s armed forces who will retreat safely to Israel after launching its attack on Iran!
    Very neat and diabolical manipulation by Israel whose citizens will not suffer any consequences for its unprovoked attack on Iran!
    Remember the lying war criminal Bush promised the invading American Military a “Cake Walk” in their mission to invade and occupy Iraq!
    That cake walk cost 4,000 plus American lives alone, some cake walk!
    How many lives of the American military will the Operation Iran cost?
    Eventually Iran will be forced to respond to America and Israel’s terrorism within its own borders and could launch attacks on the oil fields in neighbouring countries like Saudi and UAE as it will realise it has nothing more to gain from restraint so attacking the enemy’s resources makes military sense!
    Even though such action will not improve its situation it could cause its oppressors to suffer economic damage on a global scale!
    Americans should never forget how Israel’s forces murdered American military personnel serving their country on the high seas in international waters, please see: USS Liberty memorial sites on the net!
    http://www.gtr5.com and http://www.ussliberty.org
    America is missing a rare opportunity here to regain its independence and full sovereignty from Israel without having to fight another war of independence! All that is necessary is to covertly assist Iran with the technical expertise to resist Israel’s aggression and America will be a free, independant nation once more!
    With America’s subjugation to Israel ended the American electorate will be able to elect a President free to formulate foreign policy that will benefit the American taxpaying electorate instead of Israel.
    While Israel continues to exist America will never regain its independence or sovereignty!

  • Itoldyouso

    Netanyahu; “Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world,”

    Really Mr. Behravesh, do you really think Israel with its 200-500 Nuclear Bomb is more dangerous or Iran who factually we all know, she does not have any nuclear bomb?

    And More importantly, which country that quote would fit more precisely? Iran or Israel?

    #Free Palestine, End the Occupation

    Miko Peled talks of Changing the
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    Miko Peled- is an Israeli activist who
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    advocate for Palestinian rights):

    Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, which
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    withdrew during the 1982 Lebanese invasion and devoted his life to peace

    Excerpts from his speech:

    He began by saying: “To understand what
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    “Connecting Gaza back to Palestine.”

    He notes an attempt is being made to isolate
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    Europeans have been doing. By isolating it, they are stopping the solution.

    Palestine is not just Gaza and the West
    Bank. Palestine is the Galilee, it is Jerusalem, it is Jaffa and it is
    Haifa, it is the entire country, he notes.

    They have been very successful in creating
    this impression that Palestine is Gaza and West Bank.​

    The Peace talks and all these so-called
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    It is extremely important to realize: Hamas is Not the

    Gaza is Not the

    The Rockets are Not the problem.

    Zionism & Israel are the problem.

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    That’s why “Zionism has to go” is a true

    This is what we need to focus on.

    Hamas is an resistance organization. It
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    afraid, he said.​

    We have to understand, if anybody supports the
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    You support the racist laws,

    You support the killing of innocent children
    because they are non-jews,

    You support a State that has thousands of
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    The struggle today for the people of
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    Just like Apartheid had to go for there to be
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    And Jim Crow had to go for there to be some
    sort of justice for people of color here (in America).