The Iran nuclear deal – an Israeli perspective
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu points to a red line on a graphic of a bomb while addressing the UN on September 27, 2012. © Mario Tama - Getty Images/AFP/File
The Iran nuclear deal – an Israeli perspective
Last updated: November 29, 2013
The Iran nuclear deal – an Israeli perspective

"An Iran still ruled by the furious Khamenei rather than the smiling Zarif is not to be trusted"

Banner Icon We’ve published an Iranian perspective. Now it’s time for Professor Josef Olmert to give an Israeli’s view on the nuclear deal.

The Iran nuclear deal has confronted Israel with a set of dilemmas, having to do not only with Iran itself but perhaps more so with issues concerning regional Middle East politics, it’s standing in the world community and especially its relations with its great ally the US.

No surprise that there is a big question regarding Iran, starting with what Iran? Is it Iran of President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif, or is it Iran of the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei?

The esteemed Iranian journalist Kourosh Zaibari is very happy with the performance of Zarif, who wrote on his Facebok account that the "art of diplomats is to hide the tensions behind the smiles."

"I REALLY want to believe that Rouhani and Zarif represent a genuine change, a departure from the dark, aggressive, genocidal-oriented approach towards Israel"

Well said, but then what about the Supreme Leader statement during the negotiations, in which he referred to Israel in classic Nazi terms? So, should the Israelis believe the smiles, or the man whose leadership of Iran is unchallenged?

Perhaps, under these circumstances, the Iranian Foreign Minister really needs to update his Facebook account and relate to the 1973 hit song of Roberta Flack, "killing me softly"? And in case this American singer’s music is still forbidden in the Islamic Republic, maybe the distinguished Foreign Minister should refer to the great Winston Churchill, saying that "if you want to kill me, it does not cost to be polite."

Beyond the battle of smiles and PR the question for many, and not only n Israel, is "whose Iran?" As the dust settles, and the agreement comes under close scrutiny, this question is going to be a crucial criterion by which the agreement will be judged.

I, for one, REALLY want to believe that Rouhani and Zarif represent a genuine change, a departure from the dark, aggressive, genocidal-oriented approach towards Israel. I, and I believe, many others, are yet to be convinced.

This question is closely related to the issue of verification, a process to be conducted over a period of time, outlasting the 6 months lifespan of the interim agreement.  For me, as well as many other Israelis, the test is in the verification process. I personally, as being a self-professed ignorant when it comes to complicated technical matters, and nuclear technology is definitely complicated, is ready to believe many experts, including Israelis, that the agreement as promulgated contains adequate technical responses. But exactly the same thing was said in 1994, when the Clinton Administration announced the signing of a similar agreement with a rough country, North Korea. And we all know that this country is now either a nuclear power or very close to be.

So, verification is of the essence and an Iran still ruled by the furious Khamenei rather than the smiling Zarif is not to be trusted.

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Israel may have some ability to monitor the situation, but not an absolute one, and it will have to be relying on outside powers who also suspect the Iranian regime, and not so much respect it. The Gulf Countries, led by Saudi-Arabia, perhaps with the exclusion of the UAE, Jordan and Egypt are all viewing with trepidation the aggressive posture of Iranian foreign policy under Khamenei guidance. They can be, though not in public, Israel’s partners in the quest to make sure that Iran lives up to its commitments.

We are witnessing an interesting new situation in the Middle East, whereby Israel and many Arab states share the same vision with regard to an issue deemed crucial for them. Is it enough to change the course of Middle East politics?

I doubt it, and here is a challenge to Prime Minister Netanyahu. If you are serious about forming a coalition against Iran’s malicious designs, you HAVE to understand, that the Arab world, while paying lip service to the Palestinian cause, still cannot bring itself to be seen in bed with Israel even on the question of Iran, if the Israeli Government under the influence of the settlers lobby continues to take steps which seem to be unnecessarily provocative.

"Maybe the Israelis can learn something from the textbook of Mr. Zarif and hide tensions and preparations behind diplomacy."

Netanyahu is altogether in the eye of the storm. He personally conducts the Israeli effort against the Iranian nuclear program, and he is right about that. However, the campaign has not yielded the expected results, so a new approach is needed. Here too, the idea is to refrain from the blistering, near apocalyptical historic metaphors, and dwell instead on the essentials of the agreement and how to monitor them and verify their execution.

Israel has its allies, and it is not isolated as some like to believe. Foremost, it is the Obama Administration which is not anti-Israel, as the Israeli Right-Wing would like us to think. Then there is Congress and the ability, which is within reach, to impose stricter sanctions at any given moment. There is a formidable, bi-partisan coalition in Congress, not a common sight in Washington these days, which is ready to do just that. Netanyahu can work with them, but even among them, there is no love lost to settlements and provocations connected with them. Then there are Germany, France and to an extent Britain, countries which could  and should support Israel, as well as the Arab effort to VERIFY.

The Netanyahu approach should be predicated on a repeated assurance that Israel prefers the diplomatic option over any other one. Not always, in fact, most of the times, Netanyahu failed to emphasize this point.

And yes, while reiterating the support for a diplomatic solution, the military option should stay on the table. The less talked about though the better. Well, maybe the Israelis can learn something from the textbook of Mr. Zarif and hide tensions and preparations behind diplomacy.

Iran is the weak link in all that, and the task of Israel’s leaders is therefore to ensure that this weakness will lead to a REAL dismantling of the nuclear program. It can be achieved, and if it will, John Kerry may still be entitled to a Noble Peace prize, maybe alongside President Rouhani.

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