Biden and Netanyahu must put aside their differences to stop Iran
As many Democrats have moved left under President Joe Biden, many Benjamin Netanyahu supporters in Israel have moved right. This growing ideological gulf between the two leaders and their coalitions will inevitably cause conflict, especially with regard to the Palestinians and the prospects for a realistic two-state solution. But there is one overarching issue where there should be no daylight at all between the interests of the two great allies: preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear arsenal.
A nuclear-armed Iran would not only pose an existential danger to Israel — it would threaten America’s other allies in the Gulf and beyond. A big reason several Arab nations were willing to sign on to the Abraham Accords was a common fear of an aggressive Iran determined to control the entire region.
Israel will never allow Iran to develop a deliverable nuclear weapon. It will do whatever is necessary to prevent that from happening, much as it did in Iraq and Syria, where Israel bombed nuclear facilities. But if Iran is intransigent, will the United States make it known to the murderous mullahs that we would, as a last resort, participate in a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities?
If Iran is convinced that this is the strength of our commitment, it will be more likely to terminate its weaponization program and seek relief from the sanctions that are weighing down its economy. Why be subject to crippling sanctions — especially while domestic protests are on the rise and troubling the regime — if there is no realistic possibility of actually being able to develop a nuclear arsenal?
At the moment, Iran does not believe that the Biden administration, influenced by the Democrats’ increasingly radical left-wing elements, would actually take such action. And Iranian leaders are betting that Israel’s new right-wing government will alienate the Biden administration to such a degree that the president will not be willing to cooperate against Iran.
It is important, therefore, that both the Biden and Netanyahu governments marginalize the extreme elements among their supporters so as not to let them influence an issue on which our two nations should remain united.
This will not be easy. Both Biden’s and Bibi’s ideological coalitions are somewhat dependent on their extremes, especially on domestic issues. But Iran is more important than any domestic issue. A nuclear Iran would be far more dangerous than any current nuclear power, including North Korea and Pakistan. If Iran were to develop a nuclear cover, it could intrude on its Sunni neighbors without fear of the consequences. Iran would also be free to unleash its surrogates, including Hezbollah and other terrorist groups. The new dangers would be grave and unpredictable.
Accordingly, Biden and Netanyahu must work together despite their ideological differences. Our nations have far more in common than not, even with the growing power of the extremes. At their core, both countries are democracies under the rule of law. As supporters of both countries, we are critical of the hard-left Democrats who seek to steer Biden and of Netanyahu’s hard-right Cabinet members. We hope and expect that these experienced leaders, who are both centrists at heart, will not be unduly influenced by the extremists in their midst.
But even if the extremists have sway over domestic policies, that should not prevent our governments from working together to prevent the rise of the greatest evil the Middle East, and much of the world, might face: a nuclear-armed Iran.
The ideological pendulum swings widely in both of our vibrant democracies. Over the years, Israeli politics have often been to the left than our own. Now they are to the right. Temporary political differences are in the nature of democratic allies. What matters are the enduring commonalities that both countries’ populations share — including their common enemies. Iran, which calls the United States the “Great Satan” and Israel the “Small Satan,” is not only an enemy of our two nations — it is an enemy of peace, freedom and decency.
Only a joint approach by the Biden and Netanyahu governments can prevent Iran from endangering the world by arming itself with nuclear weapons. So let these leaders put aside any differences they have and work together for their common good — and the good of the entire planet.
Alan Dershowitz is professor emeritus at Harvard Law School and the author of “Guilt by Accusation” and “The Price of Principle.” Andrew Stein, a Democrat, served as New York City Council president, 1986-94.