Monday, March 7, 2022

Melanie Phillips: Ukraine first — Israel next?

The Biden administration is poised to surrender to Iran. Israel is on its own against a genocidal regime.

The invasion of Ukraine has sounded a red alert for Israel, and also presented it with an acute problem.

Israel enjoys warm relations with Ukraine, identifying with it as a small state under attack simply because it exists.

Yet it’s essential that Israel does nothing to provoke Russia. For Israel has flown hundreds of sorties against Iranian assets in Syria. Russia backs Iran in Syria. Russia has however looked the other way while Israel bombs Iranian targets.

If Russia were to withdraw this tacit permission, Israel would be at the mercy of Iran on its doorstep.

Nor can Israel rely on America if Russia were to withdraw its support. That’s because of the determination of US president Joe Biden to make a deal with Iran.

This deal, which is apparently all but finalised, is reportedly even worse than the 2015 deal brokered by Barack Obama. This one would enable Iran legitimately to manufacture nuclear weapons after a mere two-and-a-half year delay. 

Meanwhile sanctions would be lifted, funnelling billions of dollars into Tehran to fund the regime’s terrorism, attacks on Israel and regional power grabs.

This surrender to Tehran took place even as the regime ramped up attacks on America’s allies and even US military bases. The more the Iranians’ aggression increased, the more the US offered them.

All this encouraged Russian president Vladimir Putin to attack Ukraine, concluding that since America was abandoning Israel and its other Middle East allies to grovel to its enemy in Tehran, it would do nothing to stop him. So why are the Bidenites so wedded to a terrible Iran nuclear deal? 

One answer is that they always think in terms of containment and never prevention. They maintain that a nuclear Iran is a better option than a military confrontation.

When asked how this can possibly be so, given the regime’s oft-stated aim to wipe Israel off the map, they say the world will never allow that to happen. As Jews know from bitter experience — and as we can see from events in Ukraine — this is truly lethal magical thinking. 

Irina Tsukerman, a geopolitical and security analyst, suggests a more sinister linkage between Ukraine and the Iran deal. Biden could be sacrificing Ukraine in order to secure Russia’s co-operation in pushing the recalcitrant Tehran towards a deal, she argues. This may allow America to secure cheap Iranian oil, easing the squeeze on household budgets at home.

Worse still, once the nuclear deal is done, Biden may seek to handcuff Israel to prevent it from taking further military action in Syria or against Iran itself. Why? With the US hooked on Iranian oil, Biden would need to “contain” the regime and prevent it from turning the financial screw by raising oil prices.

So it’s even more imperative that Israel doesn’t make an enemy of Russia right now.

Meanwhile the Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, is pursuing a deeply questionable strategy to prevent the Biden administration from throwing Israel under the bus. He has decided not to fight Biden in public but to oppose the Iran deal behind closed doors.  

He thinks that in return, a grateful administration will then assist Israel against Iran. This is a grievous mistake.

Israel’s former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, used a virtual megaphone to go over the heads of the Obama administration and warn the American people of the dangers of that Iran deal.

Bennett thinks that didn’t work because Obama went ahead anyway; Netanyahu merely became a bogeyman for the Obama administration and Israel suffered as a result.

But Obama was no friend of Israel. He would have done that 2015 deal and been just as hostile, even if Netanyahu had remained silent. 

Bennett and other Israeli top brass believe Donald Trump’s re-imposition of sanctions didn’t work either, because Iran wasn’t put back in its box. 

Wrong again. Sanctions actually put Iran under enormous pressure. But from halfway through Trump’s presidency, the expectation that he would lose the next election threw the regime a lifeline, since the Democrats said repeatedly they intended to return to the deal.

Now Bennett’s silence over the new Iran deal means that the American public has no idea how lethal it is. So there’s no pressure on Congress to oppose it. After all, American politicians can’t be more Zionist than the Israeli government. 

The shameful fact is that anything Netanyahu did, Bennett won’t do. Bennett has turned Israel into a US vassal by ignoring warnings not to allow himself to become co-opted into Biden’s Iran policy.

Ukraine is a red flag for Israel. Aside from the belated sanctions and military aid, the West has done little more than wring its hands. 

Biden’s muddled comment last week that “no-one expected the sanctions to prevent anything from happening” to Ukraine suggested that the US wrote off that country long ago. The suspicion is that it has done the same with Israel over Iran.

The fate of Ukraine tells us that Israel will have to fight its existential foe in Tehran alone. 

Melanie Phillips is a British journalist, broadcaster and author - you can follow her work on her website HERE

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