On the evidence of his interesting New York Times column, Jeffrey Goldberg thinks that Benjamin Netanyahu’s concern about Iran’s imminent acquisition of nuclear weapons requires explanation beyond that which Netanyahu himself offers. Goldberg explains Netanyahu’s concern by reference to the scholarly work of Netanyahu’s eminent father and to the martial sacrifice of Netanyahu’s brother Jonathan Netanyahu. Goldberg’s discussion of Netanyahu’s father and brother adds depth to Netanyahu’s analysis, but Netanyahu’s own statement of his views to Goldberg stands effectively on its own:
In our recent conversation, Mr. Netanyahu avoided metaphysics and biblical exegesis, but said that Iran’s desire for nuclear weapons represented a “hinge of history.”
“Iran has threatened to annihilate a state,” he said. “In historical terms, this is an astounding thing. It’s a monumental outrage that goes effectively unchallenged in the court of public opinion. Sure, there are perfunctory condemnations, but there’s no j’accuse — there’s no shock.” He argued that one lesson of history is that “bad things tend to get worse if they’re not challenged early.” He went on, “Iranian leaders talk about Israel’s destruction or disappearance while simultaneously creating weapons to ensure its disappearance.”
Mr. Netanyahu doesn’t believe that Iran would necessarily launch a nuclear-tipped missile at Tel Aviv. He argues instead that Iran could bring about the eventual end of Israel simply by possessing such weaponry. “Iran’s militant proxies would be able to fire rockets and engage in other terror activities while enjoying a nuclear umbrella,” he said. This could lead to the depopulation of the Negev and the Galilee, both of which have already endured sustained rocket attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah.
More broadly, he said, a nuclear Iran “would embolden Islamic militants far and wide, on many continents, who would believe that this is a providential sign, that this fanaticism is on the ultimate road to triumph.”
I am in favor of just about any excuse for discussing Netanyahu’s father and brother Jonathan, but nothing in Goldberg’s column suggests that Netanyahu’s views require correction or explanation. Indeed, one might ask whether anything Barack Obama has ever said about Iran makes as much sense as any one of Netanyahu’s observations. If not, it is Obama’s views that call for explanation, not Netanyahu’s.