Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not want an American war with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Yes, Netanyahu’s government would welcome the Iranian regime’s sudden implosion, but not at the price of war. To suggest otherwise is to fundamentally misunderstand Israeli security strategy.
Still, as Noah Pollak observes, America’s greatest strategic mastermind, Ben Rhodes, has joined Iranian foreign minister/troll Javad Zarif to warn that Netanyahu is desperate for a U.S.-Iran war. Predictably, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, shares this sentiment.
But the war worriers are only right about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The de facto Saudi ruler would be very happy to see American service personnel fighting to rid Riyadh of its ideological nemesis.
Netanyahu? Forget about it.
First off, Israeli security strategy toward Iran rests not on the pursuit of regime change, but on Iran’s constant understanding of Israeli deterrent overmatch. Israel ensures that Iran knows any critical threat it poses to Israel will lead to far greater Israeli threat to Iran. While Israel’s intelligence services act relentlessly to detect Iranian actions against Israeli interests, it’s a misnomer that those services are primarily defined by force. In fact, the Israelis tend only to employ force where they believe doing so is the only option to save lives. The vast majority of Israeli intelligence activity is focused on gaining understanding of Iranian/proxy plans, interests, and activities.
The Israelis have good reason for this balanced approach. Ultimately, the Israeli security establishment recognizes that a violent escalatory struggle with Iran carries outsize risks. Don’t believe me? Then let’s apply the notion to a U.S.-Iran war.
In such a scenario, the Israelis would face a barrage of Iranian ballistic missile strikes — possibly (although unlikely) armed with chemical agent-enabled warheads. Israeli air defenses would destroy some, but not all, of these missiles. But that’s just the start.
If Iran went to war with America, Iran’s proxies in Lebanon and elsewhere would do the same against Israel. That would mean a full-scale rocket onslaught from Lebanese Hezbollah against Israel. It would also mean assassination and bombing campaigns against Israeli government officers and civilians around the world.
It would mean bloody chaos.
Israeli governments are obligated by democratic mandate to the protection of the Israeli people and their prosperity. That makes the threat of a war with Iran so much better constrained than entertained. And this is an especially important concern in Israel, where governments rest on coalitions. While the Israeli polity would unify against Iran in a war, any unjustified effort by an Israeli prime minister to risk war with Iran would risk their government. Coalition building is rarely an easy task in Israel: Netanyahu has still not built his government following the April election.
In short, it remains a very good standing rule to believe the opposite of whatever Ben Rhodes says.