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Israel's Existential Threat

Israel has frequently described a nuclear Iran as an existential threat to the Jewish State. For the most part, analysts have interpreted that classification as the danger of Iran launching a nuclear attack against Israel to "wipe it off the map." That, in turn, has led scholars to debate whether Iran would in fact use their nuclear arsenal, and thus question how much of an existential threat a nuclear Iran is to Israel.

But is our view of the existential threat too narrow?

Dr. Michael Oren, author of the Six Days of War and currently at Georgetown University, would argue yes. Offering the Israeli perspective to the Iranian challenge during the concluding panel of the Hudson Institute's conference "Iran, Hezballah, and Hamas: Tehran's War against the West by Proxy?", Oren provided a more expansive take on the existential threat that a nuclear Iran could pose to Israel - without even launching a weapon.

Oren argues that Iran could economically cripple Israel by simply going on a permanent state of nuclear alert - a move that Israel would feel compelled to reciprocate. That sense of impending conflict, with a potentially catastrophic end result, would likely bring a halt to Israel's lucrative tourism business. In 2001 and 2002, when the violence of the Al-Aqsa Intifadah was at its peak, hotels is Israel remained desolate and the economy suffered. Foreign investment, which is a critical component of Israel's thriving hi-tech industry, among other sectors, would significantly be reduced. In essence, Israel would be choked economically without a single nuclear weapon being launched.

Israel's ability to defend itself would also be significantly diminished. Consider this scenario:
"Hizballah would fire Katusha rockets into Northern Israel. Israel would want to respond and Iran would go onto nuclear alert and immediately deter Israel and it would give Hizballah and Hamas almost a free reign, perhaps moving Katusha rockets into the West Bank, in which case they would pose very much an existential threat."

Oren also notes the ramifications of further nuclear proliferation amongst Israel's neighbors - which makes the overall scenario even more daunting.

The full audio from the conference is available on the Hudson Institute's website.

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