Avner Cohen on Iran, the bomb, and its threat to Israel

“What if our leaders and pundits had reacted to the Iranian nuclear program in a completely different way than they actually have?”—Avner Cohen, from a recent op-ed in Haaretz

In a recent op-ed, Iranian threat to destroy Israel doesn’t hold up , Avner Cohen, author of the forthcoming The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain with the Bomb, argues that Israel has responded poorly to Iran’s nuclear program.

Cohen asks,

What would have happened if we [Israel] had refused to see ourselves as existentially threatened by Iran’s push toward the nuclear threshold, viewing ourselves, as the world has already viewed us for decades, as a responsible nuclear weapons state that does not threaten other states but is also not vulnerable to nuclear threats?

Cohen argues that Iran has many political and diplomatic reasons for pursuing a nuclear bomb. Without denying that Iran’s possession of the bomb would represent a threat to the existing nuclear order, Cohen also suggests that Iran is unlikely to actually use the bomb, knowing that it would mean their own annihilation via a counter-attack by the United States and Israel.

Israel, Cohen suggests, has misread the meaning of Iran’s pursuit of the bomb which has led to an unnecessarily heightened and tense situation. He writes:

It is a great pity that through our own conduct, and especially the irresponsibly alarmist voices emerging from among us, we have inflated a political problem into an existential threat. And it is an equally great pity that we have granted legitimacy to nuclear bombs being viewed as weapons, instead of helping to delegitimize this useless weapon.

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