Maximum Deterrence

Israel's Tightrope Walk

An Israeli air force F-15I fighter jet takes off at Hatzerim air base in southern Israel, December 2013. (Nir Elias / Courtesy Reuters)

In the coming months, the United States and its partners will continue trying to negotiate a comprehensive solution to Iran's nuclear challenge. For the world, and for Israel, this is a moment of maximum opportunity and maximum danger. Many Israeli experts recognize that the interim deal preceding this round of talks is not entirely bad, and that diplomacy should be given at least a chance. For Israel, that will mean carefully calibrating pressure and cooperation to make sure that its concerns are heard, that Iran stays at the negotiating table, and that no party tries to preempt flagging talks with an attack.

According to conventional wisdom, whereas Washington celebrated diplomatic success with the recent interim deal (modest and temporary sanctions relief in exchange for Iran’s momentary halting of its nuclear program), Jerusalem saw a grave historical mistake (the appeasement of an aggressive regime). But this interpretation is not entirely correct, in that it blows existing Israeli skepticism out of proportion. In fact, Israeli opinion is far more nuanced. Policymakers, of course, have condemned the deal, but many of the country’s experts and policy wonks believe that the glass is at least half full. “While the agreement reached may not be ideal,” Amos Yadlin, formerly the head of Israeli military intelligence and presently the head of the Institute for National Security Studies, has said, “it has to be seen in the context of all the other alternatives.”

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