Roger Cohen has a perceptive piece in the NYTimes which explores how two different ideologies have become locked into intransigence. Iran is using nuclear power and the threat of making nuclear bombs and a delivery system to become the pre-eminent Muslim and Shiite state. Israel is using the Iran thrust to nuclear power to help mask its seeping into ever broader settlements and control of the West Bank while delaying the emergence of a Palestinian State until its impossible to be done. The gerrymandered Westbank will become indivible and therefore a part of greater Israel. So the intransigence of both parties is supported both by fundamental differences but also substantive if not equally important “other” goals.
Calling his piece Israel’s Iran Itch, Roger gets at these adversaries with telling insights. First Iran:
Moreover, the Iran led by the Brezhnevian Ayatollah Khamenei is incapable of clear decision-making. It is a nation in the image of its noisy president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: a lot of bluster over not much. It is given to what James Buchan has called “lachrymose intransigence.” Khamenei is a septuagenarian supposedly standing in for the Prophet. The average age of his wired population is 27. Try getting that system to function.
As Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told me, a deal is unthinkable because “the possibility of ever aligning Israeli psychology, Iranian ideology and the American political calendar is infinitely remote.”
But he also has Israel’s motivations down:
One theory in Jerusalem is that the run-up to Nov. 6 is a good moment to attack because President Obama, despite his misgivings, would have no choice but to get behind the Jewish state or lose votes.
Netanyahu is doing nothing to dispel the rumors. Why should he? They provide leverage for tougher Iran sanctions and have no downside for Israel other than creating an impression that, on Iran, it has cried wolf…. Rosner continues: “These days, Israeli media outlets are competing with one another to run scare stories: Are there enough shelters in Jerusalem for all residents? Does the new text-message missile alert system work properly?”
The Netanyahu government is happy enough with this state of fear: It seeks uncertainty. It takes a rightly skeptical view of the talks on Iran’s nuclear program between Iran and the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. These have gone over familiar ground — Iranian offers to stop enrichment to 20 percent and eliminate its stockpile of such uranium against a lifting of sanctions and recognition of its right to enrich to a much lower level — without moving the ball.
Let’s get real: A deal in a U.S. election year is out of the question. Obama will not do it. He is not going to hand the Republicans ammunition on a plate.
Finally Roger is crystal clear about the choices for Israel.
So what should Israel do? Israeli security is incompatible with an Iran armed with a nuclear weapon that says it is bent on the destruction of the Jewish state: That, given history and psychology, is the reality of the situation.
But a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran today would be disastrous. It unites Iran in fury; locks in the Islamic Republic for a generation; gives a substantial boost to the wobbling Assad regime in Syria; radicalizes the Arab world at a moment of delicate transition; ignites Hezbollah on the Lebanese border; boosts Hamas; endangers U.S. troops in the region; sparks terrorism; propels oil skyward; rocks a vulnerable global economy; triggers a possible regional war; offers a lifeline to Iran just as sanctions are biting; adds a never-to-be-forgotten Persian vendetta to the Arab vendetta against Israel; and may at best set back Iran’s nuclear ambitions a couple of years or at worst accelerate its program by prompting it to rush for a bomb and throw out International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.
So the success of resolving the Iran-Israel conflict may depend on removing the secondary policy motives for both players. Deny Iran the nuclear delivery system; cut off the Israeli creeping settlement in the West Bank. Then the real issues come to the foreground which can accelerate profound movement.