Israel's reasons for a future strike on Iran's nuclear facilities are logical and clear: Iran armed with nuclear weapons threatens Israel's existence; the weapons can fall into the hands of terrorists; and it will undoubtedly ignite an arms race in the Middle East that could end in nuclear war. In light of these threats an Israeli government that chooses to sit by and do nothing will have betrayed its public.
Without Chinese, Russian, Indian and Turkish participation in imposing severe economic sanctions against Iran only the pre-emptive aerial strike remains — it does not seem the Obama administration will do this before presidential elections in November, and probably not after either. This leaves Israel alone in the picture.
Israel has another reason, one of immense weight, to take action to destroy Iran's nuclear program: a contentious past with Iran and its implications for the future. For three decades no country, including Israel, has succeeded in deterring Iran from advancing toward its strategic goals, which include regional hegemony and leading the Islamist camp in its struggle against the West in general, and against Israel in particular.
In the 1980s Iran hit hard at the U.S. and Israel in Lebanon; in the 1990s Iran reduced an Israeli embassy and Jewish community center in Argentina into rubble — and didn't receive a response. In recent years Iran has harassed the U.S. in Iraq (and likely, through its agents, in Afghanistan as well) and Israel through terrorism and rocket attacks — and hasn't paid any price. Iran has grown accustomed to a weak West and Israel. There is no deterrence.
Destroying Iran's nuclear installations, even if it only delays their progress toward an atomic weapon for one or two years — will shake Iran and force it to reconsider its options, especially if accompanied by threats that Israel is determined to prevent a nuclear Iran even if it means using nonconventional weapons. Such an attack will also function as a signal to all of Israel's enemies in the Middle East that their dreams of annihilating Israel are not necessarily realistic.
And one word to those who are afraid of what Iran's response will be: It will pale in comparison to the damage Iran will cause if it has nuclear capabilities.
The writer is a professor of history in the Department of Middle East Studies at Ben-Gurion University.