US-Israel relations won't be affected by nuclear deal with Iran -opinion

The issue is not as superficial as some observers and analysts think. The Israeli-American strategic alliance is not being tested as much as people think.

 HEN-US president Donald Trump holds up a proclamation declaring his intention to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement, in 2018 (photo credit: REUTERS)
HEN-US president Donald Trump holds up a proclamation declaring his intention to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement, in 2018
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Those who believe that Israeli-American relations could fall victim to the new arrangements between Washington and Tehran to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement are mistaken.

The issue is not as superficial as some observers and analysts think. The Israeli-American strategic alliance is not being tested as much as people think.

The whole issue revolves around the cycle of mutual coordination to find the best alternatives that guarantee the interests of the two allies.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid recently said Israel has the full freedom to prevent any nuclear threat. That there are no American constraints on Israel’s decision if it decides to prevent an imminent nuclear threat.

I think the man was just telling the truth. Israel cannot agree to accept restrictions imposed by the United States government, especially when it comes to its national security.

Nor can the Biden administration risk trading the signing of nuclear agreements with Iran for the abandonment of its unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.

In discussing this issue, several facts are worth emphasizing. First, it must be recognized that there is a high degree of coordination and institutional cooperation between Israel and the US.

This is not about democratic or republican governments or who governs Israel but about coordination between two states that develops at a steady pace that can evolve or relatively slow down under the influence of the chemistry of personal relations between heads of state. But they remain fixed lines that will not be crossed downward, regardless of the circumstances and reasons.

The common interests of the two allies

The second point is that it is not just a well-established strategic alliance but also about the common interests of the two allies. This is something that can easily be gleaned from the reality of the complex security environment in the Middle East.

All the facts confirm that strategic support to Israel is indispensable. The US cannot maintain its influence in this region without Israeli support and cooperation.

As for dealing with Iran, it can be said that it is difficult for Israel to launch a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, unless it receives an explicit green light from the US.

The issue is not only the operational aspect of the attack but also its military, political and strategic consequences and implications, taking into account Iran’s ability to mobilize large regional militias in the Middle East.

This requires a strong US defensive wall at the military level and to an equal extent, at the political and security levels, especially given the growing web of alliances and interests that Tehran has with countries such as Russia and others. This could put Israel in a very turbulent security environment in the event of a military attack on Iran without coordination with the US side.

From another angle, we note that it is in Washington’s confirmed interest to coordinate with Israel if the latter decides to launch a military strike against Iran, whether to ensure that things are checked and do not spiral out of control or to ensure that the Israeli ally does not face a serious crisis, with all that implies, whether for the popularity of American politicians or the interests of the US in the Middle East and internationally.

WHAT IS certain in this whole debate is that, as a rule, the interests of the Israeli ally and the American ally do overlap, especially in terms of Israel’s deterrent power and credibility, enhanced by the influence of the American factor.

That is the certainty of the adversary, Iran, of the existence of declared or undeclared American support for any possible Israeli attack and how it affects the calculations of the response and increases the strength and effectiveness of the Israeli threat, whether it is carried out or remains in the circle of war of words.

One other point is very important and has to do with the Americans’ awareness of the importance of Israeli pressure in the effort to prevent Iran from acquiring a military nuclear capability.

Washington understands that pressure is a significant figure in the Iranians’ calculations, at least now that Tehran’s fears of a US military strike have receded under the weight of the international security environment, complicated by the war in Ukraine. Strong Israeli pressure remains paramount in the calculations of US strategists at the moment.

Israel now has free access to Iranian airspace through the Gulf, which has become an important operational constraint when calculating an effective Israeli airstrike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Internal political conflict in Israel

There is also a problem of internal political conflict in Israel. The Iranian nuclear threat is the subject of this conflict and the political rivalry between Israeli parties and leaders.

Each government seeks to avoid any development in this case that could be used politically against it. We remember how Benjamin Netanyahu took former president Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal as his political victory.

We believe that Lapid should try to ward off this signature so that it does not take place weeks before the election, fearing that it will be used against him under the pretext that he will not be able to pressure the White House as his predecessor did.

Thus, all of these variables are taken into account, particularly Israel’s strong influence on the American interior as the midterm elections approach. Another thing is that there is a certain Israeli interest in maintaining a categorical rejection of any possible return to the Iran nuclear deal in its current form.

Any endorsement or even silence by Israel simply means a loss of true ability to deter and prevent an Iranian nuclear threat or possible attack.

Therefore, proving its position here is a definite strategic interest of the Israeli side to preserve the right of self-defense against any potential Iranian nuclear threat and to keep the freedom of Israeli decision on the matter in the hands of Israel and not others, even if it is an American ally.

It is true that there is a divergence in US-Israeli views and an awareness on both sides of the limits of the Iranian threat, which Israel and its Arab neighbors see as an existential threat to their interests, security and stability, contrary to the American vision, limited to the issue of nuclear capabilities.

This vision reduces the danger to the part that may be less dangerous than other parts, such as Iranian expansion and the deployment of paramilitary forces in the region that threaten Israel and other countries.

It is true that President Joe Biden’s future in his last two years in office depends to some extent on the end of the negotiation scenario with Iran, which puts a lot of pressure on him to sacrifice his agreement with Israel on this issue. But there remains a red line that the US cannot cross: harming the security of Israel and its people.

All of the above hypotheses also remain subject to the scenario of the end of the marathon negotiations with Iran, be it a postponement of the signing, the signing, or the announcement of a final failure.

The writer is a UAE political analyst and former Federal National Council candidate.