October 26, 2011

On Israeli-Iranian relations

Yaakov Katz started out his lecture Monday afternoon by instructing the audience of students, professors and Galesburg residents to imagine that they are sitting in an Israeli Air Force briefing room and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructs them to bomb Iran.

Katz, the military correspondent and defense analyst for the Jerusalem Post, asserted during his lecture “Can Israel Live with a Nuclear Iran?” that the scenario described above would result in a fallout for Israel and that the region risks being engulfed by a nuclear arms race.

In describing the nuclear fallout that Israel would face if it bombed Iran’s nuclear facilities, which have faced questions as to whether they are for civilian or military purposes, Katz asserted that the entire region would become engulfed in striking Israel. Namely, he said Hamas and Hezbollah, which he described as Iran’s “terror proxies,” would become involved.

“But there’s another alternative. And that is that Israel does not attack Iran,” Katz said. “And Iran is allowed to continue and to succeed in developing a nuclear weapon. And if that happens … there will always be a constant threat on Israel.”

He referenced Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s heavy rhetoric, which implies that Israel should be “wiped off the map,” as evidence that Iran always will pose a threat to Israel. Secondly, Katz said that hesitance to act, on Israel’s part, would allow Iran to continue bolstering its terror proxies, or organizations that he said are funded by Iran.

Katz also described the growing state of nuclear power in the region, asserting that more nations are now equipped with the technology to produce nuclear energy for civilians, but that makes the threat of nuclear weapon production more imminent.

“There’s a short jump from a nuclear energy program to a military program,” Katz said.

Katz broadened his argument by talking about the scope of Iran’s operations, asserting the rest of the world should be concerned about Iranian power.

“I think it’s far-fetched to believe that [Iran’s] strategy is just Israel,” Katz said. “They have a strategy that is to project power not only in the Middle East but throughout the world.”

Katz talked for some time about the recently uncovered Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States — on American soil. He speculated as to why Iran would “bring the fight” with Saudi Arabia to the United States.

“Iran today, because of what I mentioned before — the fact that they have more audacity, and they’re more daring today — they’re willing to do things that they weren’t willing to do before,” Katz said, “For example, operating in the United States.”

But Katz maintained that Israel’s main front against Iran right now is the diplomatic front, and he stressed the importance of sanctions against Iran. But, he said, the threat posed by Iran means that Israel cannot yet afford to “lay down its arms.”

“The main way to test one’s deterrence is to see if your enemy is willing to do something today that they were not willing to do the day before,” Katz said in closing. “And for that, only time will tell.”

Katz’s lecture was sponsored by the Department of Political Science and International Relations and funded by the Chicago-based Israel Education Center.

This lecture was his second of two on Monday. The first was “Changing Middle East — An Arab Spring or Winter for Israel?”

Charlie Megenity
Charlie Megenity (formerly Gorney) is a senior double majoring in political science and economics. He previously served TKS as managing editor and as co-news editor while working as the weekend reporter for The Galesburg Register-Mail. Over the summer of 2012, Charlie interned in Wisconsin with Patch.com, an online hyperlocal news source, where he covered the August 2012 Oak Creek Sikh temple shooting; he will return to Patch during the summer of 2013. He is also the journalism editor for Catch magazine.. Charlie has received three awards from the Illinois College Press Association for newswriting and design, including a first place award for front page layout. He was the 2013 recipient of the Theodore Hazen Kimble Memorial Award in Journalism for a feature story published in The Knox Student. His work has also appeared in The Huffington Post.

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