In Israel, the only question being asked right now about the nuclear deal with Iran is if Benjamin Netanyahu correctly managed Israel’s retreat. If that is the question, the answer is that nobody could have fought a rear-guard war better than Netanyahu.
But the real question – and the only important question – is: Where did we go wrong? How did we get into this mess? How did we wind up fighting a rear-guard war? Why didn’t we employ Menachem Begin’s Iraq nuclear-reactor bombing strategy a decade ago when operationally and diplomatically it would have been much easier?
After all, for 60 years we have been dragging every visiting VIP to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem to explain why we need an independent state. So how is it that when a hostile country boldly declares that it is planning a new Auschwitz and repeatedly threatens to destroy Israel we turn once again to the U.S. and British air forces expecting them to bomb the tracks for us?
For years I have been warning of the catastrophic consequences of trusting others with Israel’s security – in countless articles, in media interviews, in Likud faction meetings, in the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, as well as in personal conversations with Defense Minister Ya’alon and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Any serious debate on this subject was prevented by the fact that there is simply no opposition in Israel – not in the media and not in politics. All that opposition leader Herzog has to say is that if Netanyahu had played his cards right we could have gotten some sort of consolation prize from the U.S.
That is a classic case of hypocrisy. After all, Netanyahu adopted Herzog’s dangerous pass-the-buck strategy and declined to follow in Begin’s footsteps specifically because he feared Israel’s Left, including its branches in the IDF and the Mossad who forcefully opposed any Israeli initiative.
That fact does not absolve the prime minister of responsibility for this devastating failure. In the face of political challenge on the home-front, a real leader must know how to put the opposition in its place, as Begin did. But as the details of the nuclear accords unfold, we should understand just how pitiful the current debate in Israel really is. We must understand that the premise of both the Right and the Left has totally collapsed. And we must adopt a new mode of dealing with Israel’s existential challenges.