Israel is mired in an unprecedented domestic political crisis, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreeing to a pause in his push for a deeply polarizing judicial overhaul. While this pause may be temporary, regional challenges to Israeli security are not. Iran’s nuclear stockpile is getting closer to weapons-grade enriched uranium. China just brokered a peace deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran. And the Palestinian issue remains dangerously unresolved.
Yet instead of recognizing these momentous challenges by calmly backing the Biden Administration’s diplomatic engagements in the region to advance Israeli peace and security, loud voices in Washington are aggressively pressing for Israeli military strikes against Iran.
For the sake of both Israeli and American lives, voices like these should be ignored.
Remember, these are the same mistaken voices who called for the Trump Administration to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which ended up unleashing Iran’s nuclear program and put both Israel and the Middle East at nuclear risk.
We now know that since Trump’s dismantlement of the JCPOA, Iran’s unmonitored nuclear program has accelerated to unprecedented levels and that the regime is roughly 12 days away from nuclear breakout. A diplomatic solution is needed, one that verifiably constrains Iran’s nuclear program. What is not needed are unwise military strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
These failed results of Trump’s diplomacy-last policy on Iran were predicted and have largely come true, to the detriment of both Israeli and American security, putting us in this fraught situation. Yet instead of recognizing their misfire and changing course, these mistaken voices are doubling down, willing to risk Israeli lives in what would be, according to International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi, an illegal war under international law.
These advocates for Israeli military action against Iran must know how operationally difficult an Israeli strike would be. But they charge ahead, pressuring the Biden Administration to commit to aggressive military backing of Israeli strikes. These hawkish voices apparently have no qualms with sending Israelis, and potentially Americans, to war.
They push this Israel-goes-first attack strategy because they know that Americans won’t politically support another preemptive American war in the Middle East. But without America in the fight, strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities to prevent Iran from ever making the bomb will fail. They know that the US must be part of the military action, so they disingenuously press forward, hoping that Americans would support our ally Israel by joining the fight if it found itself at war.
Compounding this dilemma is the fact that the Israeli political system is in a full-blown crisis. Israeli military leaders have staged a soft revolt against Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s anti-democratic judicial coup. Israeli Air Force leaders have refused to conduct drills, and there’s a growing sense amongst the Israeli national security establishment that if Netanyahu were to successfully undermine Israeli democracy, then the integrity and efficacy of the military would be at serious risk.
Needless to say, attacking Iran is the last thing on the minds of Israeli national security officials, and the growing rupture of civilian-military ties only underscores the folly of such a dangerous undertaking.
In addition, diplomacy is gaining steam in the Middle East, much to the chagrin of the war advocates. Saudi Arabia, whom Israel values as a potential peace partner, cut a deal with Iran to reduce the level of conflict in the Middle East. There is clearly no appetite in Riyadh to start a new war with Iran, and without tacit Saudi support, Israel’s options become very limited militarily. Imagine the Saudi reaction to an Israeli request for military overflight clearance to bomb Iran preemptively. One can already hear the laughter.
So as Iran rapidly advances its nuclear program, as Israeli democracy gyrates, as regional players seek calm, and as the diplomatic process with Iran to stop its nuclear program continues to stall, Israel is being recklessly pushed by American hawks to strike Iran militarily. That is not the answer. We have already tried the Trump anti-diplomacy path and it has verifiably failed.
As President Obama once said, those who oppose diplomacy are either for an Iranian bomb or a war, and that one day, without a diplomatic deal, we would face that stark choice. That moment is now, and it’s clear that neither the Israeli people nor the American people want a war.
It’s therefore time for the war hawks to lower the temperature, to give Joe Biden the political space he needs to secure a nuclear agreement that prevents an Iranian bomb and to stop playing with the lives of both the Israeli and American people.
The hawks that are pushing Israel to start a war would do just that.