The other thread is getting derailed, so here’s what I think about Israel, Iran, and existential threats.
1. Iran is ruled by a conservative rather than radical establishment. Conservative establishments can and do seek domination – both sides in the Cold War were behaviorally conservative – but usually not destruction. Iran’s ruler is Khamenei, a conservative cleric who, while much closer in views to Ahmadinejad than to Khatami, has often clashed with Ahmadinejad’s radical mentor, Mesbah Yazdi. Such a leader is unlikely to launch a first strike against a nuclear power.
2. There is no immediate existential threat to Israel. Palestine and Syria are too militarily weak and plagued by internal problems to threaten Israel’s existence. Hezbollah is an elite task force rather than an infantry. Iran shares no border with Israel from which to attack on the ground, and will not use nuclear weapons first.
3. Threats to security need not be existential. Hezbollah-style harassment is a military issue. Palestinian terrorism is to some extent, though Israel makes too little use of detective work. Having Syria and Iran as enemies necessitates a larger military than 2% of GDP.
4. Although the Occupation is the source of some of Israel’s problems, it’s not the source of all or even all military ones. Nasser scapegoated Israel years before the Six Day War. Syria and Lebanon are an entirely separate issue, and Iran is yet a third one (Hezbollah is pro-Iranian, but it poses a different kind of problem from Iran). The largest financial drain of the Occupation isn’t military spending, but subsidies to civilian settlers. In fact, an independent Palestine without a lasting peace agreement with Israel will not enable Israel to reduce its military spending by a shekel.