There is hardly any more frequently recycled false narrative as this: “Israel’s security establishment” supports the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal. Promoters of this narrative would have you believe that “most experts” condemned the Israeli government’s successful efforts in persuading the Trump administration into withdrawing from the deal, calling it a “strategic mistake.” This overwhelmingly misleading claim is consistently trotted out in an attempt to reshape the debate into a binary choice between “serious security experts” who believe in diplomacy, versus “war-mongering extremists” who push for war.
Alas, no. The notion that cutting a deal with the world’s most dangerous regime, which openly seeks Israel’s annihilation, can somehow enhance Israel’s security, is completely rejected by the overwhelming majority of senior figures in the Israeli security establishment. Leaders of our 3,000-member-strong movement of recently retired high-ranking officers, combatants and veterans known as Israel’s Defense and Security Forum (IDSF) have their fingers on the pulse of the defense and security establishments. IDSF’s leaders don’t discard the responsibility of advocating for Israel’s security in order to receive international accolades from Western countries eager to trade with Iran. Often, we find ourselves listening in disbelief to claims made by Israeli security veterans from earlier generations, who are completely disconnected from the majority of officers, commanders and Mossad and Shin Bet senior officials of today’s Israel.
These claims are echoed in forums such as “Iran Diplomacy Works,” a Washington-based campaign initiated by the J Street advocacy group, pushing for “proactive American diplomacy as the only effective way to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.” Feigning to represent “pro-Israel, pro-peace American” views, the campaign cited a series of older Israeli generals, Middle East researchers and politicians, who have become quite partisan in their analysis against the American withdrawal from the JCPOA and in favor of rejoining it.
It is regrettable that basic facts about the Iran deal, and core principles of Israel’s national security, are being used in such a political manner. In fact, it is this attempt to politicize the struggle against Iran’s military nuclear program and to applaud a fatally flawed agreement that threatens Israel’s security.
The vast majority of Israel’s security and political establishment have been clear in their opposition to a return to the JCPOA, including Mossad director David Barnea and his predecessor, Yossi Cohen; IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi; Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu; a series of IDF senior officers, including newly installed Air Force Commander Tomer Bar; and the majority of Knesset members. This long list is added by our own IDSF members, including myself, former Intelligence Research Division Chief Brig. Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser, former Commanding Officer of the Northern Command Maj. Gen. Gershon Hacohen and more.
The JCPOA gave Iran unparalleled concessions by compromising “anywhere, anytime verification” into a deeply flawed verification mechanism, preventing IAEA inspectors from accounting for Iran’s undeclared nuclear work or visiting military sites where nuclear-related work continues today. It not only skipped major issues such as the Iranian ballistic missiles program and regional terrorism. It effectively allowed Iran to enrich mass amounts of uranium with advanced centrifuges despite being party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, while saving Iran’s economy by lifting sanctions, an infusion of cash that boosted its terror machine throughout the region. Indeed, following the agreement Iran, upped its defense budget by 40% and upgraded its support for terror groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas. Palestinian terrorists in Israel and Shi’ite terrorists in Lebanon are paid off by JCPOA money.
Yet above all, the Iran nuclear deal gave Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s regime a clear runway and international legitimacy to develop an arsenal of atomic weapons within several years, as a short-lived deal with numerous “sunset clauses” that make large parts of the deal become obsolete within several years. Instead of keeping the mounting pressure on Iran, forcing it into carefully calculating its steps while fearing military retribution, the agreement has given Iran a pathway to the bomb with cushy economic conditions while only forcing it to lower its profile to a certain degree.
There was never a more lethal attempt to score a few political points that granting a regime openly calling for Israel’s destruction with this kind of unmatched luxury.
We have always believed strongly in Israel’s right to self-defense, independently from international political arrangements such as the Iran nuclear deal. When world leaders sweep the Iranian “monster” under the rug for political gain and disregard Iran’s real advancement towards a nuclear weapon, it is a clear sign that Israel cannot allow itself to adopt the “Ukrainian model.” Israeli security can only be guaranteed by Israel—and will never rely on international forces or agreements for its security.
The way to foil Iran’s attempt to destroy Israel is through a credible military threat and crippling maximum pressure, not containment and appeasement. Rejoining the JCPOA will accomplish the polar opposite of its objective, fueling the Iranian terror machine with cash and deteriorating the region into a certain war in the short term. If there is one lesson that Israel can draw from experience, it’s that looking the other way does not make the problem go away.
IDF Brig. Gen. (res.) Amir Avivi, a former aide-de-camp of the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, is the CEO of Israel’s Defense & Security Forum.