Israel’s Ambassador to Hungary, Yacov Hadas-Handelsman, believes the world should take the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program seriously. According to the diplomat, Europeans are often reluctant to accept the seriousness of the problem, but in the case of Israel, it is a question of national survival. The interview is based on the one originally published in Magyar Hirlap.
Prime Minister Bennett recently warned that Iran is dangerously close to achieving nuclear weapons capability. He also called on the West to put pressure on the regime. Yet it was Trump’s White House “maximum pressure” policy that officially led to the abandonment of the 2015 nuclear deal. Why do Israeli politicians still think political or economic pressure is the most effective approach?
Iranians rely on their own sophistication on the one hand, and the lack of Western consensus on the other, but also on the Western propensity to say that ok, we have done something, and now we can go home we. The deal gave Iran some sort of legitimacy to continue its nuclear and weapons development, because you have the deal, but that didn’t include banning launcher development, that is- i.e. missiles. Iranian officials say it’s only for self-defense. But if you want self-defense, you don’t need to develop intercontinental missiles. All of Europe is now under the range of Iranian missiles. These types of missiles are developed for one purpose, to carry an unconventional warhead. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently condemned Iran for violating all agreements because Iran is not honoring these commitments. They turn off cameras, delay inspections, clear areas of illegal material. Iran is a terrorist state, which threatens everyone, but from an Israeli point of view, they threaten to destroy us.
We tend to believe they are serious about it and we are determined to stop them. It would be better if the international community did it, but in the end, it is about our existence.
The reality is that the West, including the United States, has no influence to change the Iranian regime’s mind, and the most likely scenario is that one day the seismographs will move and the world will wake up. to the reality of a nuclear-armed Iran. Or is there a realistic alternative to this course of events?
The situation in Iran is not easy, to put it mildly. A country that has some of the largest reservoirs of oil in the world, a once rich country, now has problems with food supplies, water. But they use their money to finance terror, for destruction. If we continue to press, and we are decisive, the regime will either give in or leave. It’s just a matter of resilience. They violate all international laws and principles, so there is no classic solution, and everything depends on the determination of nations. The problem is that even though on the surface everyone seems focused on preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and they make public statements to that end, in the end everyone prioritizes to its bilateral interests. If there is a chance of concluding a good economic agreement, then we are ready to forget our ideology. The unity of the international community is maintained only until local interests prevail. Countries can sometimes turn a blind eye. But that’s the reality. The alternative to this is to sit back and do nothing until Iran develops its nuclear capabilities. However, if you pressure them, the chances of success may not be 100%, but in the end, you save time. The chances of Iran using nuclear weapons are supposedly slim, but look what happened when Russia recently mentioned its nuclear capabilities. They were just floating a kite and watching the international reaction. Confronting an adversary in conventional warfare who possesses nuclear weapons, even if he is unlikely to use them, is a different ballgame. In any case, here, we are alone, because it is us whom they threaten to destroy.
You mentioned the principle of business versus security. In 2015, during the migrant crisis, European governments argued that this was not a problem, as they needed to replenish their economies with a new workforce. The Hungarian government had, however, argued that security considerations should come before commercial arguments, and the government was heavily criticized for this. Then this year, Jens Stoltenberg, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, turned it around and said, we have to make sacrifices, no one should do business with Russia, because security concerns come first. Isn’t the West somewhat selective about this principle?
Countries act according to their own immediate interests. In Europe, these discussions continue about Russia. Some countries want to evade certain penalties, and rightly so, because if you don’t have fuel, for example, you’ll freeze or you won’t be able to drive your car. Other countries have other resources, as Hungary does not. So they are easy to boycott Russia. But some say, sorry, I have to feed my citizens.
This is reality, this is life. It is only when there is a real and immediate threat to their existence that people will unite in a direct way.
But now everyone has their own interest. For many countries, security is synonymous with economy, and that is why some countries are being honest about keeping their economy moving.
The Israeli Prime Minister goes so far as to say that “Iran’s nuclear program will not stop until it is stopped”. The most likely interpretation of this statement is that it alludes to the need to use force. However, there was no appetite for the use of force before, and with the war in Ukraine this has become practically unthinkable. Can we therefore rule out this option entirely?
Iranians know exactly what the West wants to hear and will say it very eloquently. This is an essential part of the Iranian tactic: delay and deceive. They delay things until the very last moment just before consequences follow and keep promises right at the deadline. And yes, nobody wants to use force, but we maintain a certain ambiguity in this question. No one wants to use force, but at least the war in Ukraine has proven that the West can be united. It also proved that there are other means than direct military confrontation. But the war in Ukraine is another thing because nobody really believes that Russia will deploy nuclear weapons. Iran is different.
Then there is also global propaganda, and some will try to blame Israel for the Iranian aggression. Even Saddam Hussein, when he invaded Kuwait, said he only did so to raise awareness about the plight of Palestinians under Israeli occupation. There were European politicians who believed him. They wanted to believe it because they would do almost anything to avoid war. And that also happens with the Iranian threat.
We seem to have lost our fear of nuclear Armageddon. During the Cuban Missile Crisis the whole world was gripped by fear of what was to come, today the average citizen of the world is increasingly indifferent to the dangers of a nuclear confrontation. What do you think caused this and what can be done to change these attitudes?
Not only nuclear weapons, but a poorly maintained reactor is also a threat. We had serious accidents in Chernobyl or Fukushima, but the same thing happened exactly like when you miss a traffic accident. You are shocked, you drive carefully for an hour, but then you gradually start to accelerate, and you lose your inhibitions again. However, the nuclear danger is still there. People in Europe don’t want to be bothered, these problems seem far away from them, they just want to go their own way and not face such threats. But in the case of Israel, these problems are existential.
Featured Photo: Yacov Hadas-Handelsman Official Facebook Page