Developments in relations between Israel and Iran have accelerated recently in light of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s official revelation that Iran is enriching uranium close to the military enrichment level needed to build nuclear weapons and in light of the recent rise in expectations about the attitude of the right-wing Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu toward the Iranian threat.
Therefore, analysts are now focusing on the Netanyahu government’s attitude toward Iran. Does this government have measurable red lines to predict Israel’s expected behavior if these warnings are crossed? Analysis of the situation shows that Israel’s red lines toward Iran are not measurable – they have not been announced.
Maintaining confidence by staying in a gray area
Successive Israeli governments prefer to remain in a gray area in this particular case in order to maintain confidence in Israel’s deterrent capability and to give Israeli decision-makers sufficient latitude to act at the time they deem necessary to achieve specific strategic objectives.
All of this seems strategically clear when one considers that the decision-making process in Israel involves several variables, especially the orientation of the various governments, which differ tactically despite the supposed agreement on constants and frameworks related to Israel’s national security.
It can be concluded that Israel’s security is a matter of agreement and a firm and permanent red line, whether through an internal agreement or a strategic ally, such as the US. However, its implementation and guarantees are subject to different assessments. In addition to the previous theoretical part, there is a reality associated with the current position of the Netanyahu government on Iran.
Could reaching the stage of military enrichment be a wake-up call for a government that has already taken a tough stance on Iran since it took office? The reality is that we have evidence to rely on and we can read the extent of that evidence.
It is a fact that since taking office, Netanyahu has focused on the dossier of Iran’s allies in Syria and Lebanon and has placed this dossier at the top of his priorities. He has repeatedly emphasized Israel’s red lines regarding the strengthening of Iranian influence in Syria and the behavior of the Lebanese Hezbollah.
The two important strategic goals of preventing Iran’s military presence in Syria and preventing Iranian military assistance from reaching Hezbollah are certainly important goals from Israel’s national security perspective and may outweigh in terms of urgency and immediate impact other dossiers, such as Iran’s nuclear capabilities, which remain an urgent strategic threat.
The nuclear threat remains a deterrence option rather than a real threat, as historical practice shows. Rather, Iranian militias and their positions in Syria and Lebanon represent an extended arm on which the Iranian regime can rely for a possible second strike or response to an Israeli military operation against Iran.
CONSEQUENTLY, FROM the professional military’s point of view, they are the most important target.
Does this mean that reaching the threshold for military enrichment of uranium is not an approach to Israel’s red line? This question is not easy to answer, especially since the information about enrichment does not surprise the Israeli side, which seems to know the secrets of the Iranian nuclear dossier very well.
Therefore, it is hard to imagine that there could be a reaction to information that Israel has had for years. An analysis of the facts shows that neither the Israeli nor the Iranian side wants a war or a military confrontation but they are trying to strengthen their own influence and strategic interests by using escalating rhetoric against each other as part of mutual psychological warfare, in addition to media purposes at home and abroad. Thus, we can hardly develop consistent expectations of escalation in response to events such as uranium enrichment or otherwise.
Strategically, Israel faces the difficult long-term task of driving Iran out of Syria and keeping it away from its borders.
This task is difficult to achieve through military confrontation and requires diplomatic work and political efforts in parallel with sustained military pressure to raise the costs of the Iranian military presence in Syria and to convince Tehran of the political requirements in this regard.
This is no easy task. It is also difficult to raise convincing expectations about whether this can be achieved soon because Iran will not be willing to give up its influence in Syria as easily as some expect or for anything like what it has spent financially, humanly and politically.
Even Russia, which has the strongest influence and the most important role in Syria, may not be comfortable with the idea of Iran leaving the Syrian scene empty at this difficult time for Russia, worried about its war in Ukraine.
Iran is a central issue in Netanyahu’s political thinking. But that does not necessarily mean that it is the most pressing issue for him, despite all his statements on the subject. His extensive political experience also enables him to better understand the order of strategic priorities. This explains the emphasis on the idea of a comprehensive technical, diplomatic and political confrontation with Iran instead of a military strike.
Israel’s red lines toward Iran are thus primarily security rather than nuclear. There is a clear link between the two. But security is the most pressing and important issue for Israel.
The writer is a UAE political analyst and former Federal National Council candidate.