Analysis | Israel’s Legal Obligation to Prevent Iranian Nuclear Weapons

What forms of lawful reaction should Israel launch against Iran, and when?

Analysis | Israel’s Legal Obligation to Prevent Iranian Nuclear Weapons

Iranians celebrating the missile attack against Israel on April 14th, 2024. Photo: Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Reuters Connect

For the most part, Israel’s no-choice Gaza War has been fought against sub-state terrorist adversary Hamas. But on April 13, 2024, Iran launched a first-ever direct missile and drone attack upon Israel. Though Tehran claimed the attack was permissible retaliation for Israel’s prior targeting of Iranian diplomats in Syria, the victims were in fact senior terrorist operators and the shielding consulate was being used perfidiously by Iran. 

Moreover, the Iranian attack was intentionally indiscriminate (displaying mens rea, or criminal intent) and thus a violation of humanitarian international law. The critical question for Israel is now this: What forms of lawful reaction should be launched against Iran, and when?

The single most important standard of operational choice should center on Israel’s long-term survival, especially its necessary protection from a prospective Iranian nuclear attack. Iran is still pre-nuclear, but that limitation could disappear in the next year and make any residual security options less effective for Israel. 

Accordingly, Israel should base its military decisions regarding war with Iran upon the requirements of national survival, not on secondary bases of vengeance, political advantage or Jewish justice. Recalling Roman philosopher Cicero, “The safety of the People shall be the highest law.”


This abstract is reprinted with permission of the author, Prof. Louis René Beres. Read the full article at the BESA Center’s website, at

Rare-earth elements between the United States of America and the People's Republic of China
The Eastern seas after Afghanistan: the UK and Australia come to the rescue of the United States in a clumsy way
The failure of the great games in Afghanistan from the 19th century to the present day
Russia, Turkey and United Arab Emirates. The intelligence services organize and investigate