Opinion

It’s time for Israel to shift gears on Iran

If Israel has the capability to deal with the Iranian threat, it must place the gun on the table or use it.

Israeli Air Force F-15s escort an American B-52 bomber through Israeli skies on Feb. 14, 2022. Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit.
Israeli Air Force F-15s escort an American B-52 bomber through Israeli skies on Feb. 14, 2022. Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit.
Eyal Zisser
Eyal Zisser is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University.

Back in 2021, when Iran started to enrich uranium to 60% purity, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned that this would bring the ayatollah regime closer to a nuclear bomb, noting that the shift from that level to weapons grade 90% purity is just a technical matter that simply required a green light from the supreme leader.

But the world remained silent, and some have even moved closer to Iran since then. According to Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, no fewer than 50 nations have been holding talks with Tehran in order to obtain sophisticated weapon systems.

Just recently, the IAEA revealed that its inspectors have discovered uranium that had been enriched to a mere 6% away from the necessary weapons-grade level for a bomb. This is particularly disconcerting because it shows not just what Iran is capable of—something we have known for quite some time—but also that its leaders are not afraid of galloping towards a nuclear bomb and don’t believe anyone stands in their way.

This revelation elicited yawns from the international community, unsurprisingly. Some experts have even tried to belittle it by stating that the spike in enrichment might not have been intentional and that this was a technical glitch in the centrifuges.

The world is much more concerned over the brutal crackdown of the Hijab protest and even more so about the sale of drones to Russia than the prospect of Iran becoming a nuclear power in the near future.

We might hope that Iran will not rush to build a bomb. After all, Iran’s leaders don’t need to have an actual bomb, they could be content with having the capability to make one. This would give it the deterrence it needs against Israel that would allow it to enjoy a free hand in sponsoring subversive and terrorist activity all across the region.

The question we have to ask is no longer whether Iran can reach its target of becoming a nuclear-capable state, but what we can do to address such a reality. Should we wait until Iran declares itself a nuclear state or even carries out a nuclear test, or should the red line be the actual production of a bomb or the delivery system that would carry it, which would elongate the process by many more months?

We must admit that, unlike the determination and urgency on Israel’s part, Washington has been dragging its feet and wavering on Iran, as it is consumed by events relating to Russia and China.

This means that Israel is now left to its own devices when it comes to facing Iran’s nuclear threat. Although Israel has continually threatened Iran with action over the years, such threats lose their validity and credibility if they are perceived to be hollow.

We may also assume that Iran has been reading the reports in the Israeli media that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was stopped by the Israeli defense establishment from taking effective action against Iran around a decade ago.

If Israel has the capability to deal with the Iranian threat, it would have to exercise that option in the near future. It must place the gun on the table or use it.

But if all Israel has to offer is empty combative rhetoric, then we should prepare for the day after Iran is nuclear. Once we arrive at that point, we should seek real and effective deterrence based on Israel’s military strength.

Eyal Zisser is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University.

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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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