The US decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal was an immense personal achievement for former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In a leaked video, he boasted that he had personally convinced Donald Trump to scrap the 2015 accord between Tehran and world powers.
“I had to stand up against the whole world and come out against this agreement,” Netanyahu told members of his Likud party in the clip from 2018. “And we didn’t give up.”
But four years on, the Israeli leader has been booted out of office – as has Trump. Both Congress and the Knesset contain more leftwing voices, while in Iran, moderate Hassan Rouhani lost last year’s presidential election to hardliner Ebrahim Raisi.
International negotiators in Vienna are edging closer to what amounts to a watered-down version of the original deal. In the process, what a short time ago was believed by many Israelis to be Netanyahu’s major geopolitical victory has instead become a growing source of concern for Israel’s political and security establishment.
“The US has tried maximum pressure with sanctions, Israel has assassinated nuclear scientists and carried out attacks designed to limit Iranian military activity around the region. But none of it has worked,” said Danny Citrinowicz, who led Israel’s military intelligence research between 2013 and 2016.
“All it’s done is push Iran forward with its nuclear programme. Now we are out of options, and I worry that Israel and Iran are on a collision course in the near future.”
The 2015 agreement spearheaded by Barack Obama lifted crippling international sanctions on the Islamic Republic’s economy in exchange for 10-15 years of curbs on its nuclear activities.
Since it unravelled in 2018, Iran has raced ahead with uranium…