President Biden, an American president’s visit to our country is always a day of celebration. It is an authentic expression of the sense of closeness between our two peoples and the brave partnership between our two countries. This friendship does not depend on our leaders’ identities or party affiliations and takes precedence over any dispute.
The special relationship between our countries is multifaceted and serves common interests, but it is also based on common values—our commitment to democracy, liberty, justice and peace, which is deeply rooted in our people’s cultures and plays a central role in their vision.
Israeli leaders will welcome you by saying, “Israel has no closer ally than the United States,” and expect you to agree, or at least nod in agreement, when they go on to say, “and the U.S. has no closer friend in the Middle East than Israel.”
Even from a cold, pragmatic point of view, Israel is America’s most worthwhile investment. It is an asset to the U.S. in security, economics and technology, as a nation of knowledge and science, innovation and startups. Israel is building itself and growing stronger, first and foremost for itself—to ensure its existence as a Jewish, democratic, strong, safe and flourishing state, as befits its historic destiny and the vision to which it is committed.
But obviously, Israel’s growing power serves American interests too, especially in the Middle East, given today’s global instability. Strengthening the scientific-technological partnership between Israel and the United States has enormous potential. It is a blessing and could bless the entire world.
We appreciate your commitment to keeping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. That commitment is vital to ensuring the stability of the region. Still, it is not enough. A deal that only delays the Iranian nuclear program by a few years simply perpetuates the danger, especially if the deal allows Iran to retain secret enrichment capabilities, makes do with only limited oversight and does not include automatic punishments for violations.
A weak deal will keep the ayatollah regime’s hope of achieving nuclear weapons alive. It will push the rest of the countries in the region into a nuclear arms race, and serve as a source of conflict and instability.
Such a deal will also have a dramatic influence on Iran’s growing power. As payment, it will unfreeze tens of millions of dollars now frozen and ease current restrictions. Rather than binding Iran’s hands, this would open the door to nuclearization, restore Iran’s status, strengthen its capabilities and provide fuel for the mechanisms of oppression and terror it operates.
We need not mention that the threat Iran poses is not merely to its regional neighbors. While Israel is assigned the dubious epithet “Little Satan,” you don’t need to guess who the “Big Satan” is. Clearly, the mullahs believe American values and culture pose a threat to the achievements of the “Islamic Revolution.”
Mr. President, the lessons of the Russia-Ukraine war demand that world leaders look farther ahead than two, five or even 10 years when addressing current dilemmas. It would be wrong to mortgage the future out of a desire to be free of decisions that must be made in the present.
The Russia-Ukraine war illustrates the limits of the Western world’s deterrence when faced with radical acts of force by a nuclear nation. The world tiptoes around conflicts in which nuclear states are involved. The term “nuclear umbrella” is taking on a painful meaning before our very eyes. It is not hard to imagine what Iran would allow itself and the forces it operates to do if, heaven forbid, it had nuclear weapons.
Under your leadership, the U.S. can prevent such a scenario.
We believe that this can be done in a way that will not lead to a war and will reduce the chances of future conflict. It demands the full, forceful application of crippling sanctions alongside a credible military option. The goal must be to lead Iran to a deal that will absolutely eradicate for all time its ability to develop or procure nuclear weapons. It must also exact a price from Iran that will cast doubt on the feasibility of the aggressive approach it has adopted, including involvement in various forms of terrorism. The U.S. must not accept anything less.
Dealing with the Iranian challenge is an opportunity for the U.S. to strengthen its leadership and prove that it is capable of bringing order and stability whose absence is felt everywhere in the world. Checking Iran’s aggression and nuclear aspirations is a condition for order and stability, and a base on which the pragmatic nations in the region—together with Israel—can make additional progress toward a new era for the Middle East.
Meir Ben Shabbat is head of the Misgav Institute for Zionist Strategy & National Security in Jerusalem. He served as Israel’s national security advisor and head of the National Security Council between 2017 and 2021. Prior to that, for 25 years he held senior positions in the Israel Security Agency (Shabak).
This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.