As Spoiler to US/Iran Talks, Israel's Netanyahu Doesn't Disappoint
Experts: UN speech by prime minister reveals how uncomfortable Israeli government is with the prospect of regional peace
In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that recent overtures towards peace and reconciliation from Iran's new president, Hossan Rouhani, are just "ruse" and a "ploy," and rebuked the international community from looking on hopefully at a possible deal between the U.S and Iran over its civilian nuclear program.
"You know why Rouhani thinks he can get away with this?" said Netanyahu. "This is a ruse, a ploy. Because he's gotten away with it before. He fooled the world once, now he thinks he can fool it again. He thinks he can have his yellow cake and eat it too."
In his speech to the UNGA last week, Rouhani told world leaders that Iran and its people were "tired of war" and looked forward to a possible end of the standoff.
Instead of offering support to a brokered agreement, however, Netanyahu "predictably" issued a new round of threats and repeated unfounded claims about Iran's nuclear program.
Despite repeated statements by Iran that it has no desire for nuclear weapons and no verifiable evidence has been provided that that such a program exists, Netanyahu said: "It's not hard to find evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, it's hard to find evidence that it doesn't have a nuclear weapons program."
As The Guardian reported, the speech revealed "growing alarm" by the Israeli government and the sense of "danger" it feels by "being sidelined by the rapidly moving sense of detente between the new Iranian government, the US and other western countries."
However, according to many experts, what Netanyahu and the Israeli right-wing truly fear most is not that peace talks will falter or that Rouhani will betray his recent gestures, but that a deal between Iran, the U.S., and the international community might actually be struck.
"Contrary to Israel’s public line," argues Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), "Netanyahu’s worry is not that the Iranians would cheat on any agreement, or that Rouhani would prove to be a 'wolf in sheep’s clothing.' Rather, Netanyahu and much of Israel’s security establishment view the status quo -- ever-increasing sanctions that cripple Iran’s economy, combined with the ever-present threat of war -- as preferable to any realistic diplomatic deal."
As Israelis well know, a compromise would probably allow for limited enrichment on Iranian soil under strict verification, and the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions. Although Iran would technically remain a non–nuclear weapons state, it would be considered a virtual nuclear power. And that, Netanyahu calculates, is sufficient to shift the balance of power in the region to Israel’s detriment, reducing the Jewish state’s maneuverability and the usefulness of its own deterrent. There is reason to believe, then, that Israel’s insistence on zero enrichment is aimed to ensure that no deal is struck at all.
Israel also understands that a resolution to the nuclear standoff would significantly reduce U.S.-Iranian tensions and open up opportunities for collaboration between the two former allies. Since U.S.-Iranian fellow feeling will not be accompanied by a proportionate reduction in Iranian-Israeli hostilities, Israel will be left in a relatively worse position. This is what Israelis refer to as the fear of abandonment -- that, once the nuclear issue is resolved or contained, Washington will shift its focus to other matters while Israel will be stuck in the region facing a hostile Iran, without the United States by its side.
And Alex Kane at Mondoweiss reports how the speech was nothing but predictable , "filled with the typical rhetorical flourishes the world has come to expect." He then writes:
What was different this time was that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had come to town the week before, and had wowed diplomats with a conciliatory message. Gone was Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s questioning of the Holocaust, his insinuation that 9/11 was an American plot. Instead, Rouhani came with a message that his country was not developing nuclear weapons, and was ready for negotiations with the West and the U.S. Last Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry met face to face with the Iranian foreign minister, and then the historic phone call between President Obama and Rouhani took place on Friday.
So Netanyahu came to spoil the positive atmosphere, and he didn’t disappoint. He clearly wishes Ahmadinejad was still in power. “Israel will never acquiesce to nuclear arms in the hands of a rogue regime that repeatedly promises to wipe us off the map. Against such a threat, Israel will have no choice but to defend itself,” he said.