IAF F-16 fighter jet.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN'S OFFICE)
Silence has fallen on Israel. After learning that Russia had signed a lightning-fast agreement with Iran, offering wheat and weapons in exchange for crude oil, Israel has refrained from responding. Granted, Minister Yuval Steinitz stammered out a message stating that Israel had been informed of the S-300 air-defense missile system sale from Russia to Iran ahead of time, but – surprise, surprise – the earth didn’t move.
At the end of the day, Benjamin Netanyahu did speak with President Vladimir Putin.
Israel “manned the barricades” against the sale of the S-300 to Syria in recent years. Our leaders made it clear both directly and indirectly that Israel would prevent such a sale, since these missiles could threaten air space over Syria and other significant parts of the Middle East and Israel was not willing to give up its freedom of flight. The truth is that Israel has also proven that when it comes to Syria, it doesn’t limit itself to speech, but also takes action, as foreign sources say from time to time. As a result, we were led to understand that the Israel Air Force was not happy with the idea of having S-300 missiles in our region. So why now, when these very same missiles are on their way to Iran, a country in the midst of developing nuclear weapons, and after claiming again and again that “all the options are still on the table,” is Israel suddenly remaining silent? Moreover, media announcements about the missiles have been very lenient. Suddenly, it has become public knowledge that the IAF has been carrying out training maneuvers over Greek air space for some time now because not everything is “cut and dry.”
It’s interesting – I wonder where all the agile decision-makers from Jerusalem have run off to, who just a few weeks ago were competing with one another to point out all the mistakes the Americans were making with respect to Iran.
Because we are all certified Americanologists, right? From the prime minister on down the line of ministers and advisers, everyone has been busy analyzing every minute detail of the Lausanne agreement in an effort to prove that it has just as many holes as Swiss cheese. Of course, if they’d have just let the Israelis formulate the agreement (that six world powers sat and worked on) we would have done a much better job. But the framework has been signed and it’s a done deal now.
Israel insists on continuing its public (and futile) struggle against the US. We can choose for ourselves whom our allies and opponents are, but in this case I think there’s been a bit of confusion.
Of all the countries which have negotiated with Iran, the US is Israel’s closest ally, and the US has proven this time and again over the last few decades. Even now, President Obama and his staff are investing an incredible amount of energy trying to convince the American Jewish community and the Israeli public that under the current circumstances, this is the best agreement that could have been achieved.
It’s true, the agreement is not ideal, and it’s possible that Iran might still achieve nuclear capability, but for more than a decade we’ve also been entertaining the idea that international and regional circumstances might develop that could be a game changer. And in any case, the alternative is that Iran acquires nuclear capability in the very near future.
The fact that the US Congress and Obama have successfully reached a compromise regarding the Iranian nuclear agreement proves that the American system of checks and balances truly does work. Even though there is a Republican majority in Congress, all the congressman still respect their Democratic president and understand that they need to let him manage his administration’s foreign policy as he sees fit. And the US president also respects the Congress and its powers, knowing full well that the Democratic Party is in the minority. As a result of Congress’s limited power, it will have less influence over the outcome of the Iran agreement than Israel would have liked.
It is especially important at this juncture that Israel stay realistic about our situation. We must make an extra effort in the upcoming weeks to retain the special relationship we have with the US, since the US is our most important strategic ally on the globe.
The difference between Israel’s attitudes toward the US and Russia is outrageous. Even if the US takes a position that Israel doesn’t agree with, the US is always willing to compensate us handsomely afterward.
While Russia, on the other hand, didn’t even wait a few hours before slipping through the narrow opening and closing a deal with Iran.
Although Prime Minister Netanyahu is currently busy with coalition negotiations, he gave the Iran issue very high priority in his election campaign, which apparently got him reelected.
But Bibi should not just be focusing on what’s happening on Capitol Hill, but also in our own backyard. That is where Israel’s newest and greatest threat is and where our freedom of military maneuverability is most threatened.
Could it be that Netanyahu is just trying to evade the truth?The author, a lawmaker from the Zionist Union, is deputy speaker of the Knesset.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.