Why Israel Must Respond to Iranian Aggression with Disproportionate Force

(Ha'aretz) Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg - Establishing and maintaining deterrence is an uncertain art, but it is the best strategy for avoiding costly wars. For Israel, deterrence has always been the core of national security strategy, and this is still the case in the escalating conflict with the Iranian regime. An overconfident leadership in Tehran, firmly ensconced in Syria in alliance with the Hizbullah forces based in Lebanon, will continue to probe and challenge the IDF, looking for weakness. By defining red lines and credibly threatening to impose high costs on the Iranian leadership, Israel seeks to prevent a catastrophic outcome. But Iran and Israel have no direct means of communication. Misunderstandings filtered through a prism of distrust makes deterrence management far more precarious. The potential for miscommunications and exaggerated threat perceptions is compounded by the overheated rhetoric from Tehran, proclaiming the imminent eradication of Israel. Israelis remember the late Iranian president Rafsanjani's declaration that Israel could be destroyed with a single nuclear weapon, and pay close attention to Iran's oft-stated Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic cartoon contests. Iran's leaders continue to expand their power, whether in Syria, Yemen or other venues, through brinksmanship, and where they see weakness, via more aggressive means. This expansionist strategy makes deterrence towards Iran both vital and difficult to achieve. Given these factors, what might seem to be a disproportionate Israeli response is rational and necessary in order to send an unambiguous warning as the best means of reinforcing deterrence. The alternative is preventive attack - a less than optimal solution, but one which Israel has contemplated and prepared more than once. The writer is professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University, where he founded the Program on Conflict Management and Negotiation.

2018-02-23 00:00:00

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