New York, March 4, 2015—Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister, needs Iran to be defeated. Of course, getting the Shiite-run state to end its nuclear program would be a plus for Bibi, as he is known.
But what about Iran’s place as head of the anti-hegemony front in the Middle East, which posits itself as bulwark against American domination of the region, backed by its cat’s paw, Israel?
That was the sub-text of Bibi’s speech to the US Congress, in which he hopes to head off a nuclear deal between the Obama Administration, its allies and Iran. In his three conditions for dealing at all with Shiite-led Iran, the first and third had to do directly with Israel: that Iran stop “aggression against its neighbors in the Middle East” and that it “stop threatening to annihilate Israel.” The second was to stop supporting terrorism “worldwide.”
For Israel, this means specifically to stop supplying weapons to Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia, through Syria. The proxy war between Israel and Islamic Republic of Iran reached a peak in 2006, when Hezbollah fought Israel to a standoff in south Lebanon.
As far as anyone knows, the agreements under negotiation with Iran do not touch on these direct hostilities on Israel’s borders or beyond—this is no comprehensive agreement for regional peace of the type that George Bush (the First) tried to work out after the 1991 Madrid peace conference.
Bibi laid out a picture of regional chaos that he solely blamed on Iran: militias in Iraq, fighters in Syria, “goons” in Hamas. That he, and his American allies, are partially responsible for some of this landscape eluded Bibi. He had cheered on the US-led invasion of Iraq (a previous arch-enemy headed by Saddam Hussein) only to find—surprise!!—that Iran filled the vacuum. Hamas’ persistent rule and hostility in Gaza is not rooted in Iran but the failure of Israel and Hamas’ rival, the Palestine Liberation Organization, to reach a peace deal, or truly engage, for almost 15 years.
Obama appears to believe that rigid surveillance and bringing Iran into the community of nations will head off the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambitions. For Bibi, the “Persians” are incorrigible. Their hostility dates to biblical times. But in his speech, he was unable or unwilling to specify why tougher sanctions would bring this historically stubborn regime to its knees, especially that, according to Bibi, they are on a roll.