In an address to the nation last Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to critics angry with him for agreeing to a premature ceasefire with Hamas, and those accusing him of being more preoccupied with keeping his government from falling than with implementing wise policies.
“Most Israeli citizens know that when I make security-related decisions, I do so … out of a genuine and deep concern for the welfare of our country, the security of our citizens and the safety of our soldiers,” he said. “These are not slogans.”
He went on to state ominously that a multi-pronged operation is in the works. “I have a clear plan,” he announced. “I know what to do and when to do it. And we are going to do it. … This will involve sacrifice, but … we will overcome our enemies.”
Netanyahu seemed to imply that he was not solely referring to “our enemies” in Gaza or Ramallah, but to the mullahs in Tehran. Those of us convinced that his incessant harping on the Iranian nuclear threat is warranted can only imagine, with both hope and trepidation, what his “clear plan” entails.
The remaining minority of the Israeli public thinks that Netanyahu dangles the dangers of a nuclear Iran as a scare tactic to garner votes. This sector is responsible for ridiculing him every time he opens his mouth on the topic, especially when he whips out props for backup.
The most famous example is a cartoon-like diagram of a bomb that he held up during a speech to the U.N. General Assembly in 2012. To stress his point about the need for the international community to draw red lines on Iran’s nuclear program, he drew an actual red line between the base of bomb and the fuse. For this, he was made fun of relentlessly by every Israeli comedian, satirist, caricaturist and rival politician for months.
Israeli cynics also mercilessly mocked Netanyahu’s 2012 and 2014 speeches at the annual AIPAC conference in Washington, where he said of Iran’s nuclear program, “If it looks like a duck, if it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, then what is it? Yeah, that’s right, it’s a duck. But this is a nuclear duck.”
In 2015, a few months before the Obama administration and its P5+1 partners—China, France, Russia, Britain and Germany—signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, Netanyahu was derided by his Israeli detractors for his speech before the U.S. Congress warning against reaching an agreement that would enable Tehran to realize its nuclear ambitions. Since the controversial speech was delivered shortly before the elections in Israel, his foes at home, such as Haaretz’s Bradley Burston, pooh-poohed it as a ploy on the part of a prime minister afraid of losing at the ballot box.
All of the above pales in comparison to the Israeli left’s reaction to Netanyahu’s unveiling in April of a trove of Iranian documents obtained through a Mossad raid of a warehouse in Tehran. Though the miraculous mission caused even some hardened left-wing jaws to drop in awe, the content of the documents—virtual blueprints of Iran’s ongoing nuclear activity—elicited barely a yawn. Akiva Eldar, an Israeli columnist for the news outlet Al Monitor, for instance, referred to the revelation as “an open secret.”
Well, Netanyahu’s Likud Party did win the 2015 election, and the documents seized in Tehran were nothing to smirk about.
According to recent report by the Washington D.C.-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), “[W]e now know what Iran seeks to do with its civilian nuclear program, thanks to vast amounts of documents that the Mossad lifted from a secret nuclear warehouse in Tehran earlier this year. Those files made clear that Iran seeks to apply its civilian nuclear knowledge to its illicit pursuit of nuclear weapons.”
The report, written by FDD senior vice president for research Jonathan Schanzer and visiting fellow Jacob Nagel, goes even further than Netanyahu in its warnings about the Iranian threat. It urges the Trump administration to “return to its previous policy of preventing civilian advances … preventing universities and research institutions … from teaching, training or employing Iranian students and researchers in the fields of nuclear physics or related fields … [and] further request that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) terminate investments and technical assistance for Iranian nuclear projects and end IAEA-hosted seminars and conferences in Iran … to prevent Iran from growing a new generation of nuclear scientists and missile engineers.”
Without Netanyahu’s persistence in exposing the extent of threat posed by the regime in Tehran, as well as his forging of alliances to combat it, Israelis would not have the luxury to laugh at his diagrams of nuclear bombs. They’d be too busy facing the prospect of real ones.
Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ”