delek gas station 224.88.
(photo credit: Courtesy.)
The lines at some local gas stations last night, as Israelis rushed to fill up their tanks before gas prices shot up four percent to a record NIS 7 a liter, might soon become an even more regular occurrence here and elsewhere.
Gas prices are even steeper in Europe by one or two shekels per liter, and while cheaper in the US, Americans - who generally drive greater distances - are hurting badly at the $4 a gallon that became the national average price there this week.
There seems to be no ceiling to the recent climb in fuel prices, with OPEC president Chakib Khelil predicting Monday that yesterday's record $143 a barrel may hit as high as $170 before the year ends.
And let's hope it does.
Because while rising fuel prices may be cutting into our personal purses, it is also turning out to be the one thing capable of concentrating the minds of the global community on a situation that may turn out to be far more costly - the Iranian nuclear threat.
There are many reasons for the steady rise in oil prices, but much of the blame for the most recent spike is being credited to a flurry of news stories and public statements suggesting an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities could be in the offing during the next 12 months.
The latest cycle of such reports started with last week's news of an Israel Air Force long-range exercise over the Mediterranean, seen as a possible dry run of an IAF air strike on Iran. Comments by ex-Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit that Israel may have no more than a year before the Iranians are capable of building a nuclear weapon, and by former Bush administration official John Bolton that Jerusalem is more likely to strike while his old boss is still in office, lent the timetable of dealing with the issue a new urgency.
In response, Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps commander Ali Jaafari made clear one of the possible consequences of such an operation: "We will definitely impose control on the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz," through which flows almost a quarter of the world's oil supply.
At this stage, responsible Israeli officials both past and present would do well to speak more softly on the possibility of any operation against Iran, and let such events as the IAF exercise make any necessary points in that direction without further comment.
But Jaafari's comments should be welcomed, because the international community still badly needs a wake-up call that reining in Iran's nuclear ambitions must become a global priority of the highest order, and not simply a pressing issue for Israel and its supporters.
That it isn't that yet is clear enough by the relatively weak economic sanctions passed so far by the UN Security Council; the reluctance of such nations as China and Russia to push them further; the failure of even certain European governments that in principle support tougher sanctions, to impress that point on business sectors that continue to eagerly court Teheran; and the way in which the incendiary Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other top Iranian officials are still welcomed without reprobation in top diplomatic councils, despite both the genocidal rhetoric they continue to hurl against Israel, and their determination to obtain the means to carry out those threats in violation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaties signed by their government.
Though the latter is no longer a new development, it has recently received greater international media attention and a deeper diplomatic emphasis in the West. Let's not be naÃ¯ve, though - this has nothing to do with a moral awakening to the potential of another holocaust in the form of an Iranian nuclear attack on the Jewish state, and everything to do with the possible consequences of an Israeli effort to make sure that doesn't become a possibility.
Or to put it more bluntly, back when oil was still below $80 a barrel, Ahmadinejad's threats to wipe Israel off the map, and our unwillingness to be so wiped, wasn't the world's problem. Now, at a projected $170 a barrel by year's end prior to a possible military conflict, the price tag for failing to contend with this problem is too high to be ignored.
Despite much of what is being written about this situation, the issue is not whether or not to negotiate directly with Teheran, or what approach this or that US presidential candidate will choose to take, or even whether Israel has the means to carry out a strike against Iran - with or without American assistance - and is willing to do so despite the possible blowback this might entail.
Such debate is irrelevant, because anyone who believes that the Jewish state will allow itself to be put in a position where it might be wiped out in one nuclear blow by a radical Islamic regime publicly committed to its destruction doesn't understand the first thing about this country. Keep in mind that Israel potentially risked far more last September with a strike on the alleged nuclear facility of a Syrian enemy that sits directly on its northern border and possesses a greater capability than Iran to respond immediately with devastating impact on Israeli cities.
So if those nations with economic and diplomatic influence on Teheran don't want to see their own citizens lining up at the pump paying prices that make the current ones look cheap by comparison, they would be well advised to start putting real pressure on Iran. And if not... well, if it's any consolation, Israelis will probably be paying an even higher price, and not only for gas - but only because, once again, the rest of the world let us foot the bill alone.