Israelis have heard months of warnings about Iran’s nuclear aspirations. From their own government, there have been loud cries about the "existential threat" they pose and dark hints that this country’s own military could be used to keep The Bomb from the Ayatollah. Several air raid drills have underlined the danger.
News of a deal between Tehran and Washington, along with key European allies, raised the rhetoric in Jerusalem even higher.
“What was agreed to in Geneva is not a historic agreement but a historic mistake,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.“The world became a much more dangerous place today.”
That chill persists here, even as Israelis enjoy one of the hottest and sunniest Novembers on record. At an outdoor café down the street from Jerusalem’s old city, the mood is one of isolation.
The U.S. and European governments are tired of dealing with Iran, says one man. “They believe Iran is a problem that only belongs to Israel.”
A poll done for the newspaper Israel Hayom just hours after the deal was struck found that 76 per cent of those asked don’t think it will end Tehran’s nuclear program. And it found 46 per cent of Israelis support an independent air strike by their military against Iranian facilities, while 38 per cent are opposed.
Attempting to reassure public
Among Jews of Iranian origin, in the Tel Aviv neighbourhood known as ‘Little Persia’, Aharon Davidi dismisses the agreement. “It’s not good for Israel,” he says. “Those powers should take us into account, so there will be calm and we can raise our children in the same security as everyone else.” He fidgets nervously as he speaks.
Little wonder that media columnists now try to reassure the public, many condemning official outrage and the country’s grim mood.
“Israel…has been behaving in the past few days like an isolated, deceived and self-righteous country, which is insisting on snatching defeat from the jaws of [diplomatic] victory,” writes Alon Pinkas in the daily Yedioth Ahronoth.
It’s time for Netanyahu to tone down the anger, say others. Otherwise, writes Ma’ariv columnist Eli Bardenstein, “Israel is liable to find itself with a serious problem” when it comes to dealing with Washington — its indispensable ally. An ally it might need even more if others in the region, especially Saudi Arabia, decide to match Iran’s potential nuclear arsenal with similar weapons of their own. Many here consider that a real possibility and a challenge to Israel’s standing as the Middle East’s only state with nuclear weapons — officially unacknowledged but widely believed.
Israeli President Shimon Peres has taken a different tone, as he often does from that of Prime Minister Netanyahu. He took this opportunity for his own message, aimed directly at Iranians.
“We are not your enemies, and you need not be ours,” he said in a statement. “We have never threatened you — why are you threatening us? You too must choose true peace.”
These days, though, few in Jerusalem believe Tehran is listening.