Maintaining Israel’s independence of action — in face of Iran’s nuclear threat — is consistent with Israeli-Jewish history, with common sense, with regional stability and with the enhancement of vital U.S. national security interests. On the other hand, surrendering Israel’s inalienable right of self-defense would undermine Israel’s sovereignty, erode its posture of deterrence, jeopardize its existence, fuel regional chaos and undermine U.S. interests in the Middle East.
On June 3, 1967, U.S. President Johnson pressured Prime Minister Eshkol against pre-empting the pro-Soviet Egypt-Syria-Jordan military axis, which threatened the survival of moderate Arab regimes (e.g., Saudi Arabia) and Israel’s existence. Johnson advised that “Israel will not be alone unless it decides to go alone. We cannot imagine that [Israel] will make this decision."
Johnson warned that a unilateral Israeli military pre-emptive strike could trigger severe regional turmoil, transform Israel into a belligerent state, and preclude assistance by the U.S. Johnson refrained from implementing the 1957 unilateral and multilateral guarantees issued to Israel by Eisenhower. He insisted that Israel should rely on the diplomatic-multilateral option.
Eshkol defied Johnson. He pre-empted the anti-U.S., Arab axis; devastated a clear and present danger to vital Western interests; rescued the House of Saud from the wrath of Nasser; expedited the end of the pro-Soviet Nasser regime and the rise of the pro-U.S. Sadat regime in Egypt; dealt a major setback to Soviet interests; and demonstrated Israel’s capability to snatch the hottest chestnuts out of the fire, without a single U.S. boot on the ground. He transformed the image of Israel from a national security consumer (a client state) to a national security producer (a strategic ally).
Eshkol realized that a defiant national security policy — in defense of the Jewish state — yielded a short-term political and diplomatic spat with the U.S., but resulted in a long-term national security upgrade and dramatically enhanced strategic respect.
From time immemorial, the Jewish People has faced powerful adversities in asserting its sovereignty over the Land of Israel, and by undertaking unilateral national security action. Conviction-driven defiance of adversity has earned the Jewish People deep respect.
Israel’s contemporary history demonstrates that dramatic national security enhancement requires unilateral action, in defiance of regional and global powers.
For example, in 1948/9, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion declared independence, annexed west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, initiated widespread construction in Jerusalem and refused to end the “occupation” of the Negev and absorb Arab refugees, in defiance of a U.S. military embargo, the threat of U.S. economic sanctions and significant domestic dovish opposition. Ben-Gurion’s steadfastness led Gen. Omar Bradley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs-of-Staff in 1952, to recommend reconsideration of Israel as a major ally in the Middle East.
In 1967, Eshkol reunited Jerusalem and launched construction projects in east Jerusalem, in the face of U.S., global and domestic opposition.
In 1977, Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s initiative to negotiate directly with Egypt, circumvented President Jimmy Carter’s initiative to convene an international conference, which intended to focus on the Palestinian issue and Jerusalem.
In 1981, Begin concluded that the cost of a nuclear Iraq would dwarf the cost of pre-empting Iraq. He realized that diplomacy would not stop Iraq’s nuclearization, and that most Arab/Muslim countries considered a nuclear Iraq to be a lethal threat. Therefore, he pre-empted, destroying Iraq’s nuclear reactor, in spite of the U.S. threat of a military embargo and a nasty diplomatic U.S. reproach, worldwide condemnation and vocal domestic opposition, especially in national security circles.
Begin’s daring unilateral initiative in 1981 averted regional chaos, sparing the U.S. a nuclear confrontation in 1991, which would have devastated vital U.S. human, economic and military concerns.
In 2012, Prime Minister Netanyahu is aware that sanctions against Iran are inherently ineffective due to noncompliance by Russia, China, India, Japan and some European countries. He recognizes that sanctions provide Iran with extra-time to develop/acquire nuclear capabilities. He knows that sanctions did not prevent Pakistan’s and North Korea’s nuclearization. He has concluded that Iran’s time-to-develop/acquire is unpredictable and uncontrollable. He realizes that a nuclear Iran would doom the pro-U.S. Gulf regimes; would traumatize the supply and price of oil; would accelerate nuclear proliferation; would provide a tailwind to Islamic terrorism and scores of sleeper cells in the U.S.; and would entrench Iran’s military foothold in America’s backyard — Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Mexico. He understands that a military pre-emption — with no boots on the ground — is a prerequisite for regime change in Iran. Just like Begin, Netanyahu is convinced that the cost of a nuclear Iran would dwarf the personal, diplomatic, political, economic and military cost of pre-empting Iran.
Just like the aforementioned prime ministers, Netanyahu is cognizant of the cardinal Jewish proverb: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If not now, when? (Ethics of the Fathers 1:14).”