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04 2012

The Iranian Conundrum

Syndicated from: Steve Paikin

Living in Israel means dealing with a huge set of problems that no other country in the world experiences. For years, Israel was the Middle East’s underdog, a speck of democracy surrounded by hundreds of millions of hostile Arabs.  And in some respects, it still is. But it’s also qualitatively light years ahead of its Arab neighbours in almost every important metric, save and except for population size, where it continues to be dwarfed many times over. A new shopping mall, adjacent to the Old City in Jerusalem. Ever since the Six Day War in 1967, the Israelis and Palestinians have been locked in a deadly, if predictable conflict that looks unsolvable (more on that tomorrow). But talk to many Israelis today, and "the Palestinian Problem" seems a long way from the top of their list of major concerns. The Number One foreign policy issue for Israel today is Iran and its nuclear ambitions.  And it’s not limited to the fear that a nuclear Iran would launch a missile at Israel. “Would Iran transfer a nuclear suitcase to Hezbollah?” asks Yossi Klein Halevi, a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute. “What if they say, ‘We’ll drop a bomb in Paris unless Israel leaves Jerusalem’?” Israelis fear that many of the world’s nations that are allied with her today wouldn’t be tomorrow if their own populations were attacked by an Iranian nuclear device, regardless of who deployed it. Yossi Klein Halevi The most significant foreign policy debate inside Israel today is, should Israel launch a first strike attack inside Iran to destabilize that nation’s nuclear program? “If Israel strikes Iran, it’s a major Pandora’s Box if it’s opened,” says Klein Halevi. “We need stronger economic sanctions to threaten the Iranian regime,” he adds, “and then some international force to face down the Iranians militarily.” Israelis see the Iran-Israel deadlock as an existential problem with no apparent solution in sight. Attacking Iran could result in a strengthening of support for a regime that occasionally looks like it’s teetering, not to mention the concomitant blowback in violence that would follow. But allowing Iran to gain nuclear capability would leave Israelis feeling more threatened than they’ve ever felt. And through it all, there still is the Palestinian Problem, which we’ll discuss over the next few days.

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