Foreign Policy Blogs

Israel Can Only Rely On Itself

Is an Israeli attack on Iran an act of aggression or responsibility?

Alan Dershowitz made a profound statement Wednesday night at an event I attended in New York City. He said Israel could never rely on another country for its defense and security. He was, of course, talking about the situation with Iran and the United States. The last year and a half has been full of discussion about whether Israel should preemptively or for preventative purposes attack Iran’s nuclear program without the blessing of the United States. I believe Professor Dershowitz’s sentiment is correct. No country can outsource its safety; each must be the master of its own universe. Israel is no exception.

In the past, I have supported President Obama as a credible partner for Israel, including his commitment to halt Iran’s dangerous nuclear program. I continue to believe him when he says he will do everything in his power, including employing the U.S. military, to stop Iran.

However, what I have not clarified is that Israel absolutely reserves the right to act unilaterally if the threat posed by the Muslim theocracy can no longer be tolerated. Some American political pundits have expressed concern over an Israeli unilateral attack because of the consequences it may have on Israeli-U.S. relations or American interests.

For example, Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic wrote that one reason Israel shouldn’t attack Iran is that “[a] strike could be a disaster for the U.S.-Israel relationship…an attack could trigger an armed Iranian response against American targets…Americans are tired of the Middle East, and I’m not sure how they would feel if they believed that Israeli action brought harm to Americans…I doubt Israel wants to put Americans in harm’s way now. And it certainly isn’t healthy for Israel to get on the wrong side of an American president.”

This thought process is completely American egocentric. Iran is a country developing weapons of mass destruction and has openly stated its intention to commit genocide against Israel. Let us not forget that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he wants to “erase [Israel] from the page of time” and that “soon this stain of disgrace will be cleaned from the garment of the world of Islam.”

In this context, Israel always reserves the right to act unilaterally, regardless of whether or not its timing is in sync with the United States. Certainly, I agree with Goldberg’s assessment that Israel does not want to put American lives in harm’s way. But, that is not a reason not to take action in defense of its own people. Americans, above all, should understand this. This concept is part of our history dating back to what we call “Washington’s Rule.”

A nation acting unilaterally to preserve its dignity, safety, and sovereignty is not committing an act of aggression, but fulfilling a responsibility. That rule applies to all countries, including Israel.


The above article was taken from  The article was written by Jspace Foreign Affairs Correspondent, Rob Lattin, who also blogs about Israeli and Middle Eastern foreign policy for Foreign Policy Blogs.



  • teepee77

    Lattin brings up a good point in saying that, when faced with potential attacks from a hostile Iran, Israel should be able to act unilaterally. Americans tend to have an extremely egocentric view, thinking all foreign affairs and plans revolve around it, but that is simply not the case, nor will it ever be. What needs to happen is for the United States to realize that there are some decisions it cannot–and should not–dictate. Israel’s right to preemptively strike against Iran, who has been threatening to annihilate it, should not be taken away or threatened by the United States. When it comes to its own security, Israel knows best, and should thus be left to explore its choices. Could that end poorly? Certainly, but that can be true of anything regarding foreign policy decisions. In such an uncertain time for the Middle East, Israel should be granted the option to make its own decisions regarding its future. Though its relations with the United States may become strained as a result, it needs to assert itself in order to have some standing with the other global powers.

  • if isreal can possess nuclear weapons-why not iran?the instability in the region is only because of un-balance of power.isreal with the help of us want to hegemonise the region..ths is a hallow dream….iran has the capability to strike back strongly and if us supported isreal it will harm us interst and public opnion against us…like vietnam war,afghanistan iraq us will surely loose this war..and any agression against iran will furtherly fuelled iran to go for nukes…

  • caseyc22

    Postponing an unilateral attack on Iran is not only related to American interests, it is related to Israeli interests as well. Iran has stated that if Israel so chose to attack Iran, the armed Hezbollah will “close Israel’s case once and for all.” I don’t think that Israel should launch an attack on Iran because of its own security–not the interests of America. I do believe, however, that each state has an inherent right to determine its own security policies–and if a state wishes to act unilaterally, they have the complete power to do so. That being said, if a state acts unilaterally, the consequences of that action are solely on that state’s hands–not its allies, friends, or enemies. And if Israel is willing to accept that unilateral action means UNIlateral action, then it definitely has a right to protect itself. Before that happens, Israel has to realize that if you’re going to assume responsibility, you be better be ready to handle what it brings. And if it does, Israel will truly stand alone.

  • Kathleen Millar

    When you’re right, you’re right. At least Netanyahu has the cojones to identify the threat, name the enemy, keep his people, as well as the world, fully informed re Israel’s position and intentions, and move, with or without the ‘approval of the international community’ (which seems to have dropped the ball in Sri Lanka, Srebrenica, Rwanda, et al — and what about all those signatures on the Munich Pact in 1938?) to preempt the destruction of his country by a terrorist-dominated (Hamas) government that has openly called for the extermination of every Jew in Israel. The current US Administration, which has been ‘reaching out’ to Islamic leaders (‘No reason we can’t talk to our adversaries…’) since the President took office, doesn’t want to get into a political bind with mid-eastern players we’ve already managed to convince to take our money and weapons in exchange for muzzling extremists and cooperating in the US cross-border hunt for terrorists. But the US cannot fail, politically, to support Israel if it moves against Gaza or forward toward Iran. The US State Department has woven some tangled webs, indeed, but in the end, it’s not US citizens ducking rockets…it’s Israelis. Netanyahu has already complied with the terms of the Morsi-brokered ceasefire between Gaza and Israel–he’s demonstrated good faith. The fact is, however, that no cease-fire between the Palestinians and Israel has ever succeeded, and if Morsi, the Saudis, Jordan, Turkey, Qatar, et al can’t keep the lid on Hamas in Gaza, or head off a full-blown Islamic jihad across the mid east, Israel’s going to step into the cage. Which way will the Administration go? Depends on if it can walk as good as it talks.


Rob Lattin
Rob Lattin

Rob Lattin recently completed his Master's in International Affairs at the City College of New York, where he won the Frank Owarish prize for graduating at the top of his class. His thesis explored Democratic Peace Theory and its applicability to small powers, and used the relationship between Turkey and Israel as its case study. Rob received his B.A. in Near Eastern Studies and Political Science, graduating from the University of Arizona with honors.

Rob has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East and has lived in Haifa, Israel. In addition to blogging for FPB, he is the Foreign Affairs Correspondent for He currently splits his time between Washington D.C. and New York City.