A Nuclear Deal Israel Could Live With

How to Bridge the Gap Between Jerusalem and Washington

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon sit in front of a display of M302 rockets, March 10, 2014. Amir Cohen / Reuters

As the negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran reach a crucial moment, it is worth recalling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March 3 speech to the U.S. Congress. In it, he declared that Israel would be able to accept a deal with Iran "that Israel and its neighbors may not like, but with which we could live, literally." This was the first and only time that the prime minister walked back his demand that the Iranian nuclear program be completely dismantled—a message that was soon overshadowed by endless commentary on the personal rivalry between Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama. However, his words provided a productive way forward for U.S. and Israeli cooperation on Iran's nuclear program, an opportunity that should not be missed, as the negotiators set the principles of a deal with Iran.

Israel and the United States share the same strategic goal: preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The intelligence services of both countries are also largely in agreement on the status of the Iranian program. But they remain deeply divided on what to do about it, a product of conceptual differences on five issues—the five “Ts.”

The first is threat perception. Israel views the prospect of a nuclear Iran as an existential threat. Its fears are intensified by the rhetoric of the Iranian leadership, most recently Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s November 2014 call to eliminate the State of Israel. The United States, on the other hand, views Iran not as an existential threat but as a strategic one and mainly fears that an Iranian bomb will lead to an arms race in the Middle East and Iran’s domination of the region.

The second is trauma. Israeli concerns regarding a nuclear Iran have been deeply influenced by past Jewish trauma and the fear of a second Holocaust at the hands of a genocidal regime. The American trauma, however, stems from the country's two recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which cost more

Loading, please wait...

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.