Few residents of the Middle East are unfamiliar with the story of the scorpion and the frog. It was first referred to in the Talmud (Nedarim 41a), the seminal ancient Jewish legal text compiled in the fourth century.
In it, a scorpion desiring to cross a river meets a hungry frog. Unable to swim, the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across the river on his back. In return the scorpion promised the frog that he would provide him with the food he needs from the plentiful hunting ground on the other side. The frog, however, is wary. “If you sting me during the crossing, I will surely drown.” The scorpion then answers the frog with perfect logic: “But if you drown, my dear frog, I will also drown.”
The reassured frog then agrees to allow the scorpion onto his back and he begins the swim. Halfway through the crossing, the scorpion stings the frog, paralyzing him, and the two begin to sink. With his last breaths the stunned frog cried out to the scorpion “Why did you sting me!?” The scorpion angrily retorted “We are both dying because of you! Although you thought I was logical, you should have seen that I was still a scorpion!!”
This parable comes to mind when Israelis assess the nuclear deal just reached with Iran. The Iranian regime is the foremost sponsor of terrorism in the world, is on a march of conquest in the Middle East, officially denies the Holocaust, flagrantly violates the human rights of its own citizens, is directly involved in the murder of tens of thousands of Syrian civilians, and vows to annihilate the one and only Jewish state. When Iran tries to build nuclear weapons, it must be stopped.
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From Israel’s perspective, the negotiations between the world powers and Iran, meant to prevent a Tehran from gaining nuclear weapons have not achieved their vital objective. Quite the opposite, they appear to have paved the path to Iranian nuclear proliferation. Close examination of the agreement with Iran reveals just how dangerous it is:
▪ Iran can now choose between two paths to the bomb, one through violating the agreement and the second, through respecting it. Violating the terms would require overcoming the limited inspection mechanism, which is plausible, since Iran has done this in the past. While respecting the terms would allow Iran to have an unlimited ability to enrich uranium with full international legitimacy after about 10 years. For Iran, waiting a decade to effortlessly achieve its long-standing nuclear goals is not very long at all.
▪ The agreement’s inspection mechanism must provide Iran up to 24 days warning before inspectors can visit newly identified suspicious sites. This is like giving a drug dealer several weeks' notice before searching his house. The agreement also requires divulging to the Iranians the intelligence information on the basis of which the inspection is requested.
▪ The agreement fails to condition the lifting of the economic sanctions and the other restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program upon any actual change in Iran’s belligerent behavior. The deal does not have a “stick” requiring Iran to cease its regional aggression or its worldwide campaign of terrorism before offering its many economic and nuclear “carrots”.
▪ The agreement provides Iran with hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief, direct investment, oil sales and unfrozen assets. This cash windfall will naturally fund unrepentant Iran's terrorism and aggression that continue to undermine regional and global stability.
▪ The agreement allows Iran to continue developing advanced centrifuges, which will enable Iran to enrich much more uranium much faster once the deal expires.
▪ Israel is not alone in recognizing the dangers posed by the deal. Iran’s Arab neighbors are no less concerned. When Arab states and Israel agree; it’s worth paying attention.
▪ Arab nations threatened by Tehran’s growing power in the Middle East are likely to seek nuclear parity with Iran, sparking a nuclear arms race in the world’s most volatile region.
While Israel truly appreciates the global efforts made to confront the Iranian threat, and has encouraged them, it now has no choice but to raise its voice in warning. The recent agreement has fallen far short of its goals. Tragically, the savage Iranian scorpion has skillfully convinced the logic-loving Western frog that it’s safe to carry him on its back. It is Israel’s hope that its global allies in the search for peace and stability in the Middle East will urgently realize and address the shortcomings in the Iran nuclear deal before it stings us all.
Chaim Shacham is consul general of Israel to Florida and Puerto Rico.