Just about everyone is concerned with Iran’s rising influence in the Middle East. Israel, the United States, Egypt, and Russia protest what they see as Iranian incursion on their turf. Russia and America are in a double bind: Iran acts both in the Middle East and in their backyards, Central Asia and Venezuela, respectively. For Egypt, rising Iran creates a major domestic threat: dormant Shiite communities in Egypt and Shiite proselytes sponsored by Iran are inherently disloyal to Egypt’s secular Sunni regime. Russia sees Iran as wooing away its traditional clients: Syrians and Palestinians. France protests Iran taking Lebanon and Syria out of the French sphere of influence. And Israel rightly feels threatened by Iranian nuclear weapons, although Iran needs them only for boosting its regional standing, rather than for actual attack.
It hardly pays to swim against the tide of history. Iran is returning to its historically prominent position. The country which destroyed ours in the sixth century BCE and helped us to establish a short-lived Jewish state a thousand years later; the country that was powerful when Egypt was a non-power; the populous, civilized, educated, and rich country it once was. Iran will unavoidably rebound.
Israel had helped Iran with its nuclear program. That happened under the Shah, even though a failure of the monarchy was only a matter of time; monarchy is not viable in the modern world. So the real problem is not the Iranian nukes, but Iranian friendliness. Love is impossible for now, but cooperation can made possible. Israel has no other option: Iran can actually move its low-end but massive army against Israel through friendly Kurdistan, Jordan, and Syria. Unlike Israel’s traditional enemies Egypt and Syria, Iran is extremely tolerant of strikes at its civilian centers, as shown in the Iran-Iraq war. There is really nothing short of a multiple nuclear strikes that Israel can do to stop the Iranian military advance. So Iran has to be accommodated.
Israel shares a political common ground with Iran: both need to do away with Egypt and Saudi Arabia. As far as Israel is concerned, US military aid allowed Egypt to develop a relatively agile modern army, and Saudi Arabia has both a huge conventional arsenal (which it can loan to Egypt) and nuclear weapons (developed by Pakistan with Saudi money). For Iran, Egypt is a major contender for regional influence, and Saudi Arabia is the oppressor of the Shia population conveniently, settled in the Saudi oilfield region.
Israel should prefer Iranian Shiite dominance in the region to Egyptian Sunni dominance. Egypt will soon become even more radicalized than Iran, after the Muslim Brotherhood takes power. Iranians are disenchanted with the mullahs but Egyptians are all for the Muslim Brotherhood. So it’s not a choice between a peaceful secular Egypt and the Ahmadinejad state, but between two heavily armed Islamic fundamentalist states. In such an outlook, Iran is preferable, as it has not started any wars in its recent history—unlike Egypt, which has attacked Israel continually, and continues to do so through its Hamas-Muslim Brotherhood proxy.
Whatever we do will threaten us. If Israel attacks Iran’s nuclear facilities and suffers massive retaliation, it would only clear the way for Egyptian dominance. Egypt will continue building a conventional army, to be inherited by the politically victorious Muslim Brotherhood, and would likely develop nuclear weapons, feeling that the US Camp David guarantees protect it from Israeli reprisal.
Without the Sinai and the West Bank, Israel is a beach approximately sixty miles long by fourteen miles wide. The Negev is uninhabitable, and the Galilee is densely settled by hostile Israeli Arabs. A country sixty by fourteen miles cannot survive. We can effectively increase its size by attacking preemptively far outside of our borders. Short of that, Israel needs strategic cooperation with Iran.