The Iranian Threat Is Clear and Present, Not Obscure and Distant

Fear evokes erratic responses from Westerners.  If, for example, one is to argue based on loose and contentious evidence that the proliferation of an innate gaseous compound will cause the sea levels to rise and the earth to scorch at some obscure date in the distant future, fear is invoked to warrant the steepest international measures to alleviate the potential threat, however unsubstantiated.  

If, on the other hand, a dictator believes that his divinely ordained objective is to destroy another nation while routinely reaffirming his pressing dedication to this undertaking, and there is nearly unanimous agreement that his nation is seeking nuclear weapons to potentially achieve those ends, fear is decried as an irrational and an unnecessary addition to the international discourse.

The latter is the position taken by many Westerners voicing their opposition to Benjamin Netanyahu's recent pronouncement that Israel may consider a unilateral strike against subversive Iranian nuclear facilities.  Among these voices is Israeli author David Grossman, who observes in The Guardian that:

Binyamin Netanyahu likes to fire up his audiences with frequent references to the Holocaust, Jewish destiny and the fate of future generations. In light of this doomsday rhetoric, one wonders if Israel's prime minister can always distinguish between the real dangers confronting the country and shadows of past traumas. [...]

If all that - the tough talk, the big bellows of catastrophe -, is no more than a tactic meant to enlist the world to tighten the screws on Iran, and if the tactic were to succeed without an Israeli attack, then we would happily acknowledge, of course, that the prime minister had done an excellent job, for which he deserves due credit and kudos. But if he indeed thinks and operates within a hermetic worldview that swings between poles of disaster and salvation, we are in a very different universe of discourse.

Gloomy as it may be, it is practical that the world, and particularly the Jews in Israel, be often reminded of the potential destruction that radical and militant anti-Semitism can produce, especially considering that Israelis are clearly being targeted by such contemporary doctrines.  To know what is at stake is certainly not a bad thing.  Such reminders strengthen resolve and renew focus on Israeli survival -- which is, of course, why anti-Zionist elements work tirelessly to have us forget the Holocaust, denying its severity and significance, and sometimes even denying that it ever occurred at all.

Mr. Grossman argues, however, that focusing on these "doomsday" scenarios is dangerous, and that fear has caused Israeli leadership to accept a worldview where the choices are only "disaster and salvation."

The folly, however, is in assuming that Netanyahu has chosen this worldview that "swings between poles of disaster and salvation."  Any discussion, if we are to be honest, must be tethered to the indisputable fact that "disaster and salvation" are the only two options Israel has been given by its counterpart in the conflict.  The mere existence of the Jewish state is eternally intolerable to the current Iranian regime, as it has affirmed on many occasions.  Within this context, continued existence is "salvation," and as the only alternative to existence is non-existence, "disaster" is an apt description for the other option Iran has presented Israel.

Iran has never presented any acceptable circumstances that allow for Israel to maintain its sovereignty.  Furthermore, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has stated unequivocally that Iran's perpetual struggle to remove Israel will culminate in an inevitable "vast explosion that will know no boundaries," and included in these threats are warnings that this "explosion" will "burn" all of Israel's Western allies as well.  Again, pertinent to note, yet somehow overlooked by Israel's critics, is that many of these threats are not contingent upon any specific Israeli action, but they are a promise of what will come of Israel simply continuing to exist.  As long as a country called Israel can be found on maps and its people live beneath that banner sporting the Star of David, we can be sure that Iran will want to see that country destroyed and will take steps to achieve that goal.

Given this clearly one-sided and warlike stance that Iran has taken, criticism of an "irrational" Netanyahu would be comical if it were not so misguided and deadly.  In reality, if the world disagrees with Netanyahu that military strikes should be considered to prevent a nuclear Iran, the only reason for that disagreement could be that Netanyahu is the only one taking Iran's threats seriously -- which he does for the sake of his people, not because of some maniacal hatred compelling him to attack a much larger nation that also happens to be a well-equipped military power.

And that is the hard truth of the matter.  Despite the stern warnings of a strike, no one wants Israel to go to war with Iran, least of all the Israelis or their prime minister.  But such a potentially costly and devastating decision must be weighed against the threat.  The problem is that as Iran comes ever closer to acquiring nuclear weaponry, the threat compounds exponentially.  But rather than recognizing that reality, Westerners choose to manipulate the threat level to appear less dire.

Israelis like David Grossman may find it preferable to avoid taking the costly measures necessary to keep such weapons from the Iranian theocracy in hopes that they may have a change of heart or decide not to use them.  Pundits like Rajan Menon of the Huffington Post may find it comforting in the bastion of Cold War understanding, suggesting that Israel's own nuclear arsenal will deter Iran from employing its newly acquired warheads.  But Grossman's blind hope and good wishes won't make the Iranian regime any more likely to accept Israel's sovereignty, or any less likely to employ the most powerful methods to end it.  And Menon's naiveté is quickly exposed by his refusal to understand that "mutual assured destruction," the deterrent to a nuclear showdown in the twentieth century, is an absent element given the Islamic theocracy's religious imperative that values martyrdom above all things.

Ehud Olmert once said that "it's quite obvious" why "Israel will not tolerate nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran."  Time seems to have muddied exactly how obvious it is for the Western world, though.  And time, as it turns out, is the precise reason why an attack may become necessary -- the very real threat of a nuclear Iran becomes less manageable as it passes.  And what is at stake is no less than a Jewish genocide at the hands of a despotic madman.

Prime Minister Netanyahu is not a fear-monger, as his critics are wont to claim.  He has a very justifiable reason to remind the world, "History will not give the Jewish people another chance."

William Sullivan blogs at and he can now be followed on Twitter.