Depriving Netanyahu of His Raison D’Être
Paul Pillar comments on Netanyahu’s speech and cites a recent op-ed by Avner Cohen, whom Pillar describes as someone who “probably knows more than anyone outside the Israeli government about the Israeli program and the strategic thinking underlying it.” Cohen wrote:
Despite its flaws, the proposed agreement is far from bad for Israel—the only nuclear power in the Middle East—but it is very bad for Netanyahu. The agreement offers Israel almost a generation, or even more if it succeeds, in which Netanyahu won’t be able to sow fear about Iran as an existential danger. It would leave Netanyahu as a leader whose raison d’être has been taken away from him.
This touches on what seems to be one of the real sticking points for die-hard opponents of the negotiations with Iran. It is not that they fear a “bad deal” that will lead to an undesirable outcome, but rather they fear any deal that deprives them of a ready-made enemy that can be used for fear-mongering and alarmist warnings in the future. Resolving the nuclear issue peacefully is in the interests of all countries involved, but it is not at all useful to hard-liners that thrive on increasing tensions between states. Reducing tensions and reducing a potential threat do not appeal to those that rely on threat inflation to win and retain political influence.
Cohen calls the proposed deal a “reasonable compromise,” and that is another reason why hard-liners are so allergic to it. A compromise necessarily means that all parties to a deal get something from it, and none of them gives up everything. The standard hard-liner position on Iran’s nuclear program for some time has been that Iran has to give up practically everything in its program in exchange for very little. That has always obviously been a non-starter with the Iranians, and so any deal that could be made was always going to leave Iran with more than maximalists in the U.S. and Israel could accept. That’s not an argument against the terms of an achievable deal. It is an indictment of the maximalists’ unreasonable demands and expectations.