By Amram Mitzna Nearly every day since the nuclear agreement with Iran was finalized, more Israeli generals and security chiefs have come forward with the same message: The deal is surprisingly good for Israel’s security. And as a retired major general who oversaw many elements of the Israeli military, I feel it is my duty to join my colleagues.
No agreement is perfect, and defenders of the deal should not sugarcoat its serious implications.
But as head of IDF operations and planning, I learned well the capabilities and also the limits of military power. And I saw firsthand the enormous security benefits that can be achieved through diplomacy.
I must state loud and clear — this agreement is better than no agreement and must not be rejected. If implemented, it will block all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon, and extend the time Iran would need to build a bomb from only two months to more than a year.
The most heartening piece of the deal is that it has real teeth to enforce Iran’s compliance. It will impose the strictest inspections program in history, providing 24/7 monitoring of Iranian facilities, and giving inspectors access to literally every inch of the country. Iran, Russia and China will have no way of stopping inspectors from examining suspected nuclear sites. And due to uranium’s near-eternal half-life, Iran will not be able to conceal the damning evidence if it decides to move toward a weapon.
These parameters alone will be enough to make Iran think twice about breaking its word. But importantly, the deal also has a critical snap-back mechanism to automatically resume international sanctions if Iran cheats. Simply, if Iran violates the agreement, we will catch them, and the crippling sanctions will return as they were. The only difference is that Iran will then be over a year away from obtaining a weapon, instead of today’s breakout of two months, and it will be blamed by the entire world for cheating.
There are also concerning aspects to the agreement, particularly the billions of dollars of sanctions relief that Iran will receive, some of which could be used to strengthen Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist proxies around the world. Clearly, this presents a real risk and Israel must work with its allies to counter Iran’s increased influence as a result of this deal.
When considering this deal, we should not be thinking in a vacuum but also considering the alternatives. This is where opponents of the agreement, both in Israel and the United States, have fallen short.
When they rail against the sanctions relief that Iran will receive, why do the critics not mention that Iran will also receive these funds if the deal is rejected? There is no question that rejecting the deal would enrage China and Russia, leading them to resume business with Iran and allowing the sanctions to collapse anyway. Iran would then face no consequences for kicking out inspectors, and begin seeking a nuclear weapon without restrictions. Do the critics realize this or do they choose not to say?
I take very seriously Iran’s support for terrorists and its chants of “death to America” and “death to Zionists.” In an ideal world, I would prefer that Iran not receive the sanctions relief. But if it must, I strongly prefer that this evil regime not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon.
That is the choice that lies before us. If the critics have a serious alternative, they should say so. I see only destructive alternatives, and so simply listing this agreement’s deficiencies is not enough.
My government had a legitimate opportunity to influence the agreement over the years that it was being negotiated. That time is now passed, and the train has left the station. There is no other, better deal, and those who claim that there is, are fooling themselves.
The time has come to pull our heads out of the sand, accept the deal as fact and begin planning for the future. Israel has a key role to play, to make sure that the world holds Iran to every commitment that it has made.
If it does, and this agreement is fully implemented, I believe that Israel will be significantly safer than it is today. On the other hand, rejection of the deal would be very, very bad for all of us. And I know that many of my colleagues who have yet to speak up, agree with me.
For Israel’s sake and all the people of the Middle East, we must not miss this opportunity.
Amram Mitzna is former member of Knesset, former mayor of Haifa and Yeruham and a retired major-general in the Israel Defense Forces.