The idea that a nuclear Iran would pose an “existential” threat to Israel is of course grotesque and could only be taken seriously by someone as feckless, self-centered and delusional as my former (thank God) senator, Joe Lieberman.
So let Yale Law School professor Paul W. Kahn tell you what’s actually going on here. Excerpts:
Suppose [Netanyahu] is right that Iran can comply while still developing its nuclear knowhow, which would allow it to develop a bomb quickly at the end of the agreement. Yet without an agreement, Iran may be only months away from the construction of a bomb should it choose to go that route. How is 15 years not better than 15 months?
Similarly how is it not better to have a right to inspect — even after 24 days — than no right to inspect at all?…
Things only begin to make sense when we realize that Netanyahu doesn’t care about the bomb. He knows the two essential facts about the nuclear age. First, the knowledge of how to make a bomb cannot be eliminated. The technical knowledge that Iran now has cannot be negotiated away. This means that Iran will always be a potential nuclear state. With or without a deal, Iran can always decide to become a nuclear state. The only issue is how long it will take to get there. No matter what, the answer will always be “not very long.”
Second, nuclear states are locked in reciprocal relationships of deterrence. Treaties don’t keep states from using nuclear weapons, the threat of devastating retaliation does. For this reason, nuclear weapons have been useless as offensive weapons for seven decades. Nuclear states have preferred defeat in a conventional war over raising the possibility of a retaliatory, nuclear exchange. Netanyahu does not care about an Iranian bomb because Israel already has the bomb. The same thing that prevents Iran from using biological or chemical weapons will keep Iran from using a nuclear bomb…
Money and politics are what this dispute is about, not nuclear bombs. This is what Netanyahu will not say, for to focus on Israel’s real enemies is also to raise the issue of what more Israel could do to end the dispute with the Palestinians, which is at the heart of all of this.