Ron Ben-Yishai
Ron Ben-Yishai
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addressing the UN General Assembly on Monday

Bennett's UN speech shows Israel has no real strategy against Iran

Opinion: While the premier is not interested in confrontation with U.S. and European allies like his predecessor, address to General Assembly serves as thinly veiled threat that if a real initiative is not taken against Islamic Republic, Jerusalem will do it alone

Ron Ben-Yishai |
Published: 09.29.21, 23:34
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's attacks against Iran in his speech to the UN General Assembly on Monday highlights Israel's strategic distress against the Islamic Republic as its nuclear program continues to rapidly progress.
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  • The premier made an almost desperate call to the U.S. and its European allies to toughen up their stance on Tehran and take more drastic measures to halt its accelerating nuclear weapon.
    5 צפייה בגלריה
    נפתלי בנט בנאום ראשון באו"ם
    נפתלי בנט בנאום ראשון באו"ם
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addressing the UN General Assembly on Monday
    (Photo: AFP)
    Israel is mainly worried that the brakes former president Hassan Rouhani put on the pace of the nuclear program have been lifted under his ultra-conservative successor Ebrahim Raisi. There is no longer a moderate force in the leadership of the regime that can counteract the hardliner Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei - along with the Revolutionary Guard and the mainly conservative parliament.
    Israel fears that by the time the Americans and their allies come to their senses and understand what the new regime is really striving for, Iran will already be a nuclear threshold state or even on the verge of their first nuclear weapons' test.
    Bennett's despair stems from the fact that Israel, at least for now, has no efficient, reliable and conventional military option to stop Iran's nuclear ambitions before they come to fruition, at least at a reasonable cost.
    Israel needs not only to thwart Tehran's military nuclear capabilities, but to ensure they could not be rebuilt further down the road.
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    The Bushehr nuclear plant in Iran in December 2020
    The Bushehr nuclear plant in Iran in December 2020
    The Bushehr nuclear plant in Iran in December 2020
    (Photo: AFP)
    The worse news is that - according to reports - the effectiveness of an Israeli strike (using only Israeli military means) would be questionable at best and would take a massive toll in damage and casualties for the IDF and the home front in Israel.
    However, anyone familiar with Israel and the development of its capabilities can appreciate that in the not-too-distant future we will have conventional, reliable and effective military options for attacking in the so-called "third circle" (targets outside a 1,000 km radius from Israel) that will not involve unnecessary shedding of blood.
    It is even permissible to assume that plans for such strategies are already at work. But, what will happen if Khamenei and Raisi catch up to Israel in the nuclear race before Jerusalem or its allies are able to thwart it?
    If such a scenario becomes a reality, the confrontation will shift from the conventional plain to the nuclear playground. Israel, and even the United States and Europe, will no longer be able to deny Iran's nuclear weapons' ambitions, hoping only to deter the Ayatollahs from using it.
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    Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addressing the UN General Assembly remotely last week
    Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addressing the UN General Assembly remotely last week
    Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addressing the UN General Assembly remotely last week
    (Photo: Screenshot)
    A situation similar to the mutual nuclear deterrence that existed between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
    Nowadays, even North Korea uses its nuclear capability and missiles array to threaten and blackmail powers like the United States and Japan.
    It is quite clear that this is also what the Iranians want to achieve when they become a nuclear state. North Korea is the model that Tehran is trying to emulate, and Israel cannot afford to accept it, given the fundamentalist nature of the regime. Israel is rightly determined not to reach such a situation where only deterrence, which is always prone to erosion, prevents Iran from using nuclear weapons against it.
    In order to slow down the Iranian nuclear race until Israel finds a way to attack it without paying a heavy price, the Jewish state is forced to beg the U.S. and Europeans to act resolutely to stop Iran not only via the deceptive diplomatic channels, but through immediate actions.
    These actions should be taken in cooperation and consultation with Israel in three key areas: sanctions, which includes preventing Iran from acquiring key technological components; pinpointing vulnerable points in Iran's nuclear facilities; intelligence gathering; cyber technology and damaging influence of radicals both inside the Islamic Republic and outside of it.
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    World powers meet in Vienna with Iranian delegation on U.S. return to the 2015 nuclear deal, last April
    World powers meet in Vienna with Iranian delegation on U.S. return to the 2015 nuclear deal, last April
    World powers meet in Vienna with Iranian delegation on U.S. return to the 2015 nuclear deal, last April
    (Photo: Reuters)
    This is exactly what Bennett hinted at when he said that "words will not stop the centrifuges" and "Iran is much weaker and more vulnerable than it seems" – both directed at U.S. President Joe Biden.

    The American refusal and Bennett's hint to Biden

    But Bennett's distress call to Biden does not end with just a request to change U.S. policy towards Iran. The Israeli leader is also concerned that Washington is unwilling to provide Israel with weapons and technologies it needs to plan an independent, accurate and destructive (both covert and overt) long-range offensive capabilities. The Americans already have such technologies, or they are in advanced stages of developing them, but the Pentagon is not willing to sell or transfer them to Israel, not even as part of a joint R&D agreement.
    What is worrying is that this American refusal stems not only from Biden's fear of his party's progressive wing, but mainly because the current administration in Washington does not want Israel to have an effective long-range attack capability that if used, would most certainly complicate things for them in the region.
    Biden and his people are now focused on solving domestic socio-political and economic problems as well as confronting China and are in no way interested in renewed tensions in the Middle East.
    Washington knows that an Israeli attack on Iran will almost certainly lead to an Iranian retaliatory response not only against Israel, but also against American soldiers, bases and vessels in the Persian Gulf, and against its Arab allies.
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    ראש הממשלה נפתלי בנט נפגש עם נשיא ארה"ב ג'ו ביידן
    ראש הממשלה נפתלי בנט נפגש עם נשיא ארה"ב ג'ו ביידן
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden in the White House last month
    (Photo: GPO)
    The problem is that the American refusal to give the Israeli defense establishment and defense industries what they want greatly slows down the development of the IDF's independent military options, and indirectly allows Iran to reach the strategic position it is interested in before Israel can do anything about it.
    Although Bennett is aware of all this, he refrained from initiating a public confrontation with the Americans and Europeans in his UN speech. He saw what Benjamin Netanyahu's hubris caused when he confronted Barak Obama and incited Donald Trump to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal.
    However, he did not hold back, adding in his speech an implicit threat when he said that "Iran’s nuclear program has hit a watershed moment, and so has our tolerance."
    What he basically said is that if you do not act, we will do so ourselves. Even if we have to pay a price for it, you will get dragged into this with us - whether you like it or you don't.


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