Faced with mounting international pressure for a peaceful settlement in Palestine, the Israeli leaders are stepping up the talk of an "existential threat" to the country. They point to Iran and its nuclear program as the source of the threat. But a closer study of the problems that Israel is facing now reveals that the existential threat to Israel comes not from Iran and its nuclear program but rather from a crisis of identity in Israel and from its persistence on an intransigent foreign policy that dates back to the Cold War era.

    After years of American unconditional support to Israel, there are now significant signs for change in Obama's foreign policy. Obama has opted to engage with Iran and has signaled a new approach to Israel. As the largest beneficiary of American overseas aid, Israel is now under great pressure to end its Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank. More irksome to Tel Aviv is the statement by US officials that they would like to see Israel signing the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which would put it under pressure to declare and finally give up its nuclear arsenal.

    There are also some signs that the international community is at last moving toward an active role regarding occupation of the Palestinian territories by Israel. In May 2009, a UN Security Council statement drafted by Russia and voted by America, reaffirmed the backing of the international community for a formula that would see an independent Palestinian state established on the land under Israeli military occupation for almost 42 years.

    In reaction to those developments it seems that Israel, by pointing to what it calls existential threat by Iran, is resorting to an old tactic for diverting the attentions from the central issue of the Palestinian question. In a parallel move for building pressure on the US administration to abandon its policy of engagement with Iran, the Israeli officials have made public statements that if America does not take a tougher stance toward Iran, Israel is ready to attack Iran's nuclear facilities,. By portraying Iran as an imminent threat, therefore, the government of Netanyahu says that Israel would make concessions on Palestinian issues only after the U.S. makes strides on the Iranian standoff. Being aware of the pitfalls, Obama has resisted that idea.

    Although a nuclear Iran will make a dramatic impact on the geopolitical scene in the Middle East, if not in a wider global environment, Israeli efforts in rallying Arab opposition against Iran's declared peaceful nuclear program has not been successful due to the simple fact that Israel itself has more than 200 nuclear warheads and poses direct threat to regional peace and security. Meanwhile, it has become a public knowledge that the much publicized statement by President Ahmadinejad in October 2005 or similar statements by Iranian leaders for an end to the state of Israel were essentially aimed in showing support for the Palestinian people and for deploring Israel's expansionist policies as the root causes of injustice and present problems in the Middle East. Those statements contained no implication of using force against the Jews or inhabitants in Israel. Ironically, the Israeli leaders by ringing the false alarm about Iran's nuclear program are helping the realization of an end to the state of Israel. By portraying Iran as a mortal threat, Israeli leaders are fomenting horror and chaos in Israel, thereby causing a wave of reverse migration, a trend as suggested by some Israeli experts would be fatal to the survival of Israel. There are already signs of greater out-migration from Israel than there is immigration into the country. For instance, over the past several years, migration from Israel to Russia was around 50,000, whereas migration from Russia to Israel was about10000.

    A recent poll taken in Israel indicates that 23 percent of the population considers leaving the country if Iran obtains nuclear weapons. [UPI, May22, 2009] The situation has turned so grave and apparently getting out of control that David Menashri an Israeli Professor who heads the Iranian Studies Center in Tel Aviv cautioned that "The findings are worrying because they reflect an exaggerated and unnecessary fear."[Haaretz, May22, 2009]

    Thus, what Israel is referring to as an existential threat to its survival might be true but Iran could hardly be blamed for such a threat. Iran has never initiated an aggression in the living memory against another country and there are no indications that it wishes to do so in the future. Ironically, it was Israeli officials who have blatantly and routinely threatened Iran with bombardment of its nuclear facilities in recent years. For a better analysis of the situation the following points might be helpful:

    Israel has enjoyed a nuclear edge in the Middle East during the past thirty years. Mr. Netanyahu like other Israeli leaders knows very well that Iran, for the simple fact that it would face a nuclear retaliation from the US, would not launch a nuclear attack at Tel Aviv even if it had nuclear weapons. But what seems to worry Israel is that a nuclear Iran even devoid of nuclear arms, like the model of Japan, would shatter the nuclear monopoly that Israel enjoys and may deter its future military aggression plans in the region. By raising the rhetoric of existential threat, Israeli radical leaders are simply trying to avoid surmounting problems associated with their policies regarding the Middle East peace process, especially the escalating pressure from the Obama administration to curb Jewish settlements on the West Bank.

    Israeli leaders are also deeply worried about future relations between Iran and the United States. They are deeply concerned about Americans' eagerness to seek Iranian cooperation in dealing with the grave and urgent situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a process that has the potential for setting a wider agenda for a strategic engagement between Washington and Tehran.

    At the same time, Israel's power is declining. Internally, drug and human trafficking, money laundering and illicit weapons sales are spreading to a staggering level. The Israeli government is not only showing inaptitude in dealing with those problems, but it is unable and reluctant in dealing with the serious issue of Jewish settler's violence against Palestinian civilians. Therefore, Israel's policy of denying fundamental freedom to the Palestinians while offering extraordinary rights to its Jewish citizens is the cause for being depicted as a racist and colonialist state, not dissimilar to the apartheid regime in the former South Africa. Internationally, as it was demonstrated in Lebanon and recently in Gaza, Israel has become more reckless and disrespectful of international law, causing its condemnation by the international community.

    After some 60 years, it seems that Israel is still grappling with the crisis of identity. Israel has to decide between being a Jewish state or a democratic state. If it chooses democracy, then Israel as a Jewish state will cease to exist because of the high growth rate of the Arab population. If it chooses to remain officially a Jewish state and continue to impose itself through policies of subjugation and intimidation on other non Jewish communities, then it has to prepare itself for increasing level of international condemnation and isolation.

    What Israeli leaders have yet to realize is that in the past few years a dramatic change has occurred in the world and especially in the geopolitics of the Middle East. Blaming others for their own follies and catastrophic policies will not help them. Iran's peaceful nuclear program is under full safeguard regime of the IAEA and can not be projected as a threat to any country. Despite those facts, unfortunately one cannot rule out that some people in Israeli leadership might become so consumed in their own rhetoric of existential threat that they would take a foolish step in attacking Iran. In that case, they will not only create a new carnage in the region but put the very survival of Israel at stake.