The pattern is clear: As Iran has crossed each red line, Israel has retreated to the next and, in effect, hit the repeat button. From conversion of uranium, to production of low-enriched uranium (less than 5 percent) that can be used as fuel for civilian power plants, to a stockpile of low-enriched uranium sufficient (after further enrichment) to make one nuclear bomb, to a stockpile sufficient for half a dozen bombs, to enrichment beyond 5 percent to 20 percent medium-enriched uranium, to operation of centrifuges enriching to 20 percent at the deep underground facility at Fordow, to achievement of a undefined “nuclear weapons capability,” Israel’s warnings have grown louder, but with no more effect.
Most observers have failed to recognize this story line. But this prime minister does. When Netanyahu returned to office in 2009, his national security advisor, Uzi Arad, virtually indicted Israel’s leaders of the prior decade for dereliction of duty in failing to prevent Iran’s crossing what many Israelis had previously described as “the point of nuclear no-return … defined as … the point at which it has all the elements to produce fissionable material without depending on outsiders.” As Arad recognized bluntly: “Iran is now there.”
Reviewing this record, readers will be reminded of the children’s story of the boy who cried wolf. Unquestionably, the parade of prior alarms has undermined Israel’s credibility. Threats unfulfilled necessarily erode deterrence. Nonetheless, we should not forget how that story ends: The wolf finally comes, and he eats the boy.