Israel’s options with Iran: Do … or die

Israel must act decisively—soon and with determination—to assure its survival in the face of a real and explicit existential threat.

Iranian missiles on display at a Quds Day rally in Tehran, Iran, June 23, 2017. Credit: Saeediex/Shutterstock.
Iranian missiles on display at a Quds Day rally in Tehran, Iran, June 23, 2017. Credit: Saeediex/Shutterstock.
Ken Cohen
Ken Cohen
Ken Cohen is editor of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.

The new Iranian nuclear agreement may or may not reach fruition. Even a “successful” deal will only delay Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons by a few years. With Iran’s declared vow to eradicate Israel, an Iranian nuclear attack has become almost inevitable. Israel must decide on a plan to thwart Iran—before its capabilities catch up with its anti-Zionist genocidal ambitions.

If the deal is signed, Iran will receive billions in trade and sanctions relief to fuel its global terrorism and militarism … including paying for the development of its nuclear technology and intercontinental delivery systems. A deal will only mean that Iran—in the unlikely event that it complies with the agreement’s stipulations—will be delayed from “going nuclear” by perhaps three years.

If the deal falls through, Iran can go on a mad dash to produce nukes in a matter of months.

Since negotiators report serious uncertainty about closing the deal, Israel must decide quickly on a plan of action to thwart this real and present existential danger.

Iran has been upfront about its plans. In 2020, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei warned: “The Zionist regime is a deadly, cancerous growth; it will be uprooted and destroyed.”

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Commander Hossein Salami added, “With the push of a button, a sinister and dark dot on the political geography of the world [Israel] will disappear forever.”

The obliteration of Israel has been a prime goal of Iran since 1979 when Ayatollah Khomeini said, “I call on the Muslims of the world … to join forces to cut down this usurper [Israel] and its supporters.”

Iran’s horrific plan for Israel couldn’t be plainer, and a nuclear arsenal will allow it to be implemented.

This is not the first time Israel has needed to confront such plans.

In May 1967, Egypt’s Nasser and his allies in Jordan and Syria declared their intent to launch a genocidal war against Israel. With Arab armies and mobile artillery massing at Israel’s borders, Israel’s leaders made the bold decision to strike first. Their pre-emptive destruction of Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian airpower enabled an astonishing Six-Day War victory in June.

Then, in October 1973, Egypt’s Anwar Sadat conspired with Syria to have another try at destroying Israel. Sadat proclaimed that Egypt was prepared to “sacrifice a million Egyptian soldiers” to avenge its humiliating 1967 defeat.

U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger demanded that Israel hold back. Golda Meir proclaimed to her Cabinet that Israel must not be blamed for starting the war. “If we strike first, we won’t get help from anybody,” she explained.

Meir’s Cabinet debated and dithered as Yom Kippur approached. Eventually, they agreed that there would be no Israeli preemptive strike.

Once attacked, Israel almost paid with its life for that blunder, suffering over 10,000 casualties in three weeks of war—comparable to America accepting over one million casualties.

Without the Israel Defense Force’s brilliant and desperate counter-offensives, Israel might have been overrun.

Israel, of course, isn’t the first and wouldn’t be the last country needing to decide how to confront real dangers to its existence. In the 1930s, Europe’s appeasement and America’s isolationism allowed madmen in Berlin and Tokyo to nearly conquer the world in the 1940s.

And this year, American and European inaction in the face of Vladimir Putin’s massive military deployments against Ukraine was an invitation to the tragedy unfolding in Europe today.

If history teaches anything, it is that when dictators announce evil intent, we should believe them.

Iran is a special case because its terrorist regime is coupled with a fanatical Shi’ite cult with apocalyptic messianic zeal. For Iran, destroying Israel is a blessed, urgent action needed to welcome Islam’s messianic age.

Israel today must choose between the paths of June 1967, or October 1973.

Israel has the most powerful air force and munitions in the Middle East. It also has, by far, the most sophisticated technology, and boasts the most potent intelligence service. Israel has maps of Iran’s nuclear facilities and probably knows far more about them than it has even hinted at.

Israel is also no stranger to preventing nuclear proliferation in its neighborhood.

Saddam Hussein stated in 1978, “We need a nuclear bomb to get rid of Israel.”

In 1981, the Israel Air Force’s F-16s destroyed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear site—and was roundly condemned by the world.

Ten years later, Iraq’s Scud missile attacks on Israel during the first Gulf war might have had far more lethal results if Iraq had continued its nuclear program at Osirak.

Similarly, Israel demolished the Syrian nuclear weapons site in 2007—with much diplomatic hand-wringing worldwide.

If the Jewish state destroys Iran’s nuclear program, it must expect—as always—harsh, widespread condemnations.

America will no doubt be very upset that Israel didn’t wait and see how events might unfold, as the Biden administration did in Afghanistan and Ukraine—and as Kissinger demanded of Israel in 1973.

Israel must politely pocket the critiques and hope for a more steadfast ally after the next American elections. But the price of waiting will be far greater than anything Golda Meir unwisely risked years ago, on that fateful Yom Kippur.

Furthermore, this time, Arab leaders—some of them behind closed doors—would be applauding Israel’s lifting of the Iranian curse from them as well: Nuclear Iran’s international trouble-making would be disrupted, and nuclear fallout doesn’t respect international borders.

Israel must decide if it wants to be fondly remembered as the first nation since Japan to submit to a nuclear attack—or if it prefers to survive—and continue to thrive.

Israel must act decisively, soon and with determination, to assure its survival in the face of a real and explicit existential threat.

Israel’s moral duty to its citizens is to make certain that the madmen of Tehran do not perpetrate a genocide to rival that of the Third Reich—another group of fanatics that the world watched timidly until it was almost too late.

Ken Cohen is co-editor of the Hotline published by Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which offers educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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