Netanyahu Wants War With Iran. Biden Can Prevent It.

The Iranian missiles and drones had not even approached Israeli airspace when Tehran declared the matter concluded. Iran’s retaliation for Israel’s April 1 bombing of an Iranian consular building in Damascus was choreographed to be heavy on symbolism and light on destruction. The point was not revenge but the restoration of Iranian deterrence and evasion of a broader war. But the choreography suffered from one major flaw: A broader war with Iran is exactly what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been seeking for more than two decades.

Early in the war between Israel and Hamas, the Biden administration worried that Israel was set to expand the war into Lebanon. According to the Wall Street Journal, U.S. President Joe Biden successfully convinced Netanyahu to shelve plans for a preemptive strike against Hezbollah in Lebanon. But what neither Biden nor the Washington establishment fully appreciated was that Netanyahu has, since the late 1990s, sought to drag the United States into war with Iran.

Netanyahu has an interest in prolonging the ongoing war with Hamas since the moment it ends, his political career is likely to end as well—and a prison sentence may soon follow if his corruption trial proceeds. Likewise, the hard-line Israeli leader also has a long-standing desire to enlarge the conflict to deal with what he perceives to be Israel’s biggest strategic threat: Iran.

A military conflict with Iran that draws in the United States would achieve several Israeli objectives. It would degrade Iran’s nuclear program as well as its conventional military and, by doing so, restore a more favorable regional balance for Israel while also preventing a U.S.-Iran rapprochement that the Israelis view as tantamount to Washington’s abandonment of Israel. A diminished Iran would also weaken Iran’s regional partners from Hezbollah to Iraqi militias to the Houthis in Yemen, all of which depend on Iranian arms and financial largesse.