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8/30/15

Middle East: Israels Real Problem - by Jacob L. Shapiro

To listen to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the U.S.-Iran nuclear accord is a catastrophic development for the Jewish state. From Netanyahu's perspective, it is a "bad deal" — one that paves the way for Iran to develop its own nuclear weapons and take a step toward fulfilling the wish of erstwhile Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that Israel should vanish from the arena of time.

It's not just Netanyahu. Across the spectrum, Israeli politicians express fear. Isaac Herzog, leader of the Labor Party, told journalist Jeffrey Goldberg that the Iran deal would "unleash a lion from its cage." Another of Netanyahu's main political rivals, centrist Yair Lapid of the centrist Yesh Atid party, has said there is no difference between the opposition and the coalition when it comes to the Iran deal; the Israeli political establishment uniformly opposes the agreement.

There can be no doubt that the Iran deal is a challenge for Israel. But the fact is that even if Iran developed a nuclear weapon — and Stratfor believes Iran has more of an interest in appearing to develop a weapon than in actually obtaining one — such a development would not represent an existential threat to Israel. For one thing,

Israel's own nuclear weapons are the region's worst kept secret, and for all its bluster Iran is not immune from the military doctrine of mutually assured destruction. Furthermore, strained as U.S.-Israeli relations are right now, the United States would not tolerate an Iranian attack on so close an American ally, and Tehran has no interest in inviting American retaliation.

Israel's greatest existential threats are internal, not external. The breakdown of the rule of law, the weakening of political institutions and the loss of a nationally shared purpose are challenges Israel faces now, and they are more threatening than Tehran's rhetoric. Iran cannot destroy Israel in the current geopolitical environment. Only Israel can destroy itself.

Read more at Stratfor Global Intelligence

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