Dan Drezner is usually the very definition of level-headed, so when I saw the headline I had to read his story. Here’s his take on Israel’s position on the Iran talks:
This new leader isn’t talking about wiping countries off maps. This leader starts talking about cutting a nuclear deal with the great powers. The IAEA confirms that the country has restrained its nuclear program since the new #2 took over. The #1 leader seems willing to provide cover for the #2 guy to cut a deal. The negotiations between this country and the great powers sanctioning it — including your closest ally — have shown considerable progress. The interim deal that seems in the offering might be imperfect, but would clearly curtail that country’s nuclear program far more effectively than the sanctions regime currently in place.
What do you do?
A) Have your cabinet start singing “Kumbaya” to signal support for further negotiations;
B) Ensure that a consultation pipeline remains open between you and your great power protector
C) Publicly state a set of criteria that seem both doable and necessary before you’d support any nuclear deal;
D) Announce that the still-being-negotiated deal is a bad one and that you’re prepared to take unilateral military action against your adversary unless it abjectly surrenders its negotiating position, which it won’t do.
You can guess what Israel did over the weekend. And the amazing thing is that I’m not even sure that’s the craziest thing Israeli officials have said in the past few days.
To use fancy international relations theory jargon, what the Netanyahu administration is doing right now is “wigging out” — and not in a productive way, either. Let’s stipulate that Israel has reason to be more concerned about Iran’s nuclear program than the United States. Nevertheless, this gambit has zero upside.
Maybe the question to ask is why Israel is wigging out. Let’s look at Dan’s four choices again.
A) This one is silly and obviously intended as comic relief.
B) Israel’s great power protector has a leader who never seemed much of a friend of Israel’s, and who is currently enjoying a political meltdown.
C) This is obviously the best option, but might be rendered moot in light of B).
D) See C).
I’m not excusing the Israelis for choosing poorly. But they do have good reasons for wigging out.