Why Israel benefits from the Iranian nuclear deal

Friday 24/07/2015
Ron Prosor, Israel’s United Nations Ambassador, points to a map of the world at United Nations headquarters, July 20, 2015.

Beirut - No sooner had US Presi­dent Barack Obama an­nounced the signing of the nuclear deal with Iran than Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu de­scribed it as a big mistake and urged the US Congress to reject it. How­ever, is the deal with Iran really bad for Israel?

Israel has largely benefited from the US negotiations with Iran. The Jewish state has scored many gains indirectly from the deal, which Ne­tanyahu seems to have ignored.

First, US-Iranian rapproche­ment through the nuclear deal has brought Israel closer to its Arab enemies. Relations between Israel and several Arab Gulf states have reportedly improved as they have Iran as a common enemy.

Egypt appointed a new ambassa­dor to Tel Aviv after many years of low-level diplomatic ties and there were reports of contact between Is­rael and Gulf Arab officials.

Second, the Palestinian cause was no longer a priority of most Arab states that seem to be more concerned with the immediate threat posed by the Iranian-led Shia-Persian expansion in the re­gion.

The growing role of Iranian-backed Shia militias in Syria, Iraq and Yemen seems to overshadow the Israeli attacks on Hamas in Gaza Strip, while Arab officials and me­dia pay little attention to the long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Arab countries are taking part in two military coalitions, the first is led by the United States fighting terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria while the other is led by Saudi Ara­bia against the Iranian-backed Hou­this in Yemen.

Third, the deal will put a strong cap on the Iranian nuclear pro­gramme and roll it back, prevent­ing Tehran from building nuclear weapons for at least ten years. Is­rael has placed a great emphasis on Iran’s nuclear programme and its pressure on the international com­munity was the main reason Wash­ington and other Western powers became so involved in it.

Fourth, Israeli nuclear weapons were no longer a primary issue to the Iranians as well as the Arabs. The nuclear deal with Tehran does not link its nuclear programme to Israel’s and the Arabs are more fo­cused on Iranian nuclear capabili­ties and rarely mention the Israeli nuclear force.

Washington and other Western powers have long ignored Israel’s nuclear arsenal and have pushed to keep Israel excluded from the equa­tion when they press for a Middle East free of weapons of mass de­struction.

Fifth, the lifting of the sanctions under the nuclear deal and the sub­sequent improvement in economic and political relations between Iran and the West will ultimately affect Tehran’s policies vis-à-vis Israel.

The early signs of changed Ira­nian policy towards Israel were evi­dent in Hezbollah repositioning it­self from a resistance force against Israel into a force dedicated to the fighting of Sunni extremist groups in Syria and Iraq.

Thousands of Hezbollah fight­ers were deployed in Syria fighting Syrian rebels and Sunni extremist groups that have reached the bor­ders of Hezbollah’s heartland in Lebanon.

Hezbollah has ignored most of the Israeli raids against its positions as well as Syrian regime bases in Syria and has improved its coordi­nation with the Lebanese Army and UN peacekeepers in south Lebanon to prevent cross-border attacks against Israel.

Even when Israel assassinated an Iranian general along with Hez­bollah commanders in southern Syria, Hezbollah’s response was very measured and came from a disputed territory in Shebaa Farms on Syrian-Lebanese-Israeli borders and not from southern Lebanon.

As political and trade relations improve between Iran and the West, Tehran is expected to limit and strongly control its actions and those of its allies against Israel to avoid any setback that could under­mine the flow of billions of dollars into its economy.

The future of Hezbollah in the post-nuclear deal era is yet to be determined as Iran and the United States continue confidence-build­ing measures through the imple­mentation of the nuclear deal.

Finally, the nuclear deal will re­duce tension between the United States and Iran as well as other powers, such as Russia, and will likely pave the way for scenarios to end the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Those countries seem to be break­ing up along ethno-sectarian lines, with Iran playing a strong role as­sisting Shias and Alawites in both places.

Many analysts expect Syria to split into three or four states — Sun­ni, Alawite and Kurdish. In such a case, the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights will likely become a perma­nent part of the Jewish state with international recognition to Tel Aviv’s annexation of this territory.

Therefore, US détente with Iran and the signing of the nuclear deal benefits Israel a great deal and will yield more rewards to the Jewish state as Iranian relations with the West grow stronger.

So why Israel is acting to be up­set with the nuclear deal? Here are some possible reasons:

- Israel’s opposition to the deal will likely keep the Arab anti-Iran momentum strong and keep Tel Aviv on good terms with the Arabs. These ties could become stronger and public with time.

- Continued talk of a potential Iranian threat will keep the steady flow of aid and arms from the Unit­ed States and other Western powers going.

- Highlighting Iranian threats fa­vours the right-wing party of Net­anyahu, which thrives on the fears of the Israeli people. This will in turn keep the prime minister in of­fice for a longer period.

Hence, the Israeli anti-nuclear deal stance could be a well-calcu­lated policy to score gains discrete­ly and quietly and with as little ef­fort as possible. dV