Israel's Election and the Iran Crisis


The National Interest - January 18, 2013

Prof. Shai Feldman  is Judith and Sidney Swartz Director of the Crown Center

Israel’s January 22 elections will produce a new government. The extent to which it will differ from the outgoing government remains to be seen. But efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons might be affected. Could the composition of a new Israeli government indirectly impact the Israeli-U.S. discourse on Iran's nuclear program?

Context

Assuming the January 22 Israeli elections will be followed by some three to six weeks of negotiations on the formation of the country's next governing coalition, Israel's new government will be sworn in sometime between mid-February and mid-March 2013. By that time, the decision making environment surrounding Iran's nuclear efforts is likely to be affected by two vectors: One is the expected further evolution of Iran's nuclear program. The other is the likely efforts of the United States to reach a negotiated resolution of the nuclear conflict with Iran.

If the pace of Iran's uranium enrichment activities are projected into the next six to nine months, by late spring or early summer 2013 Iran will likely possess enough uranium enriched to 3.5 percent and 20 percent to allow the construction of some 2–3 bombs within 2–3 months of a decision to do so being taken. At that point, Israeli leaders will become uncertain about the extent to which the difference between a nuclear-capable and nuclear-armed Iran will remain relevant. Even the more cautious, balanced, and level-headed among the Israeli defense and intelligence chiefs will then become very nervous, as so much would then rest on the ability to detect the decision of Iran's supreme leader to order the production of nuclear weapons. ...