Israel: It's Time to Stand up
Growing up in a tough Bronx neighborhood further back than I like to think, it was good to have an older tough friend. I was lucky -- I did. My next door neighbor was three years older than me and always had my back. It allowed me to navigate confidently around the "hood," as you would say, and not worry too much about the bad guys. But things changed, my friend moved away, and I was now responsible for my own security. Countries are comprised of people who collectively are faced with similar circumstances. Israel is just such a country.
Despite irritants from time to time, no nation in the world has had a more dependable friend and a stronger ally than the United States has been to Israel since her founding. Israel in turn is America's closest ally, never once asking for one American soldier to risk his life defending her during successive wars with the Arabs. Nevertheless, it was reassuring for the Jewish state to know, if push came to shove the United States would always be there both militarily, and equally important, politically. Recognizing the political shift of the Obama Administration, Israel can no longer be sure that to be true.
From the Cairo speech; the Netanyahu slights; obsessive "settlement" cajolement; pressuring the release of murderous prisoners; referencing the pre-67 armistice lines as a given in recent talks; American foreign policy has indeed shifted.
With an acumen similar to that found in his domestic policies, Obama, with bewilderment and disregard for his allies, plods headfirst into solving both the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and the Iranian nuclear issue; at once no less.
Last week speaking before a crowd in Bethlehem, Secretary of State John Kerry urged Israel to limit settlement building, an issue which, according to him, is weighing on Israeli-Palestinian "peace talks." Following a meeting with what some have described as his new best friend, Mahmoud Abbas, Kerry had this to say:
"Let me emphasize at this point the position of the United States of America on the settlements is that we consider them to be illegitimate."
As if short of a complete Israeli capitulation these talks had a chance anyhow, Kerry had no qualms playing the Palestinian hand by negating Israel's trump card, the "settlements." He went on to say:
"At no time did the Palestinians agree to accept the settlements as a part of a negotiated peace accord." If that isn't arguing the Palestinian Arab narrative, what is?
At their recalcitrant best, Abbas and company have already nixed anything less than Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state; deemed non-negotiable the right of return to Israel proper of Arabs and their progeny from 1948; they adamantly opposes any Israeli security remaining to protect the vulnerable Jordan Valley; and are insistent that a Palestinian state must be "Judenrein," free of any Jews. Least important but most symbolic, Abbas refuses to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish homeland living next door to a Palestinian one.
Yet Kerry, no doubt at the behest of his boss, continues to hector Israel as the impediment to these "negotiations." Stepping well over the line as an ally or even an impartial mediator, he went on to issue a thinly veiled threat: that unless the Jewish state kowtowed to the administration line there would be: "chaos... a third intafada... and there will be an increasing isolation of Israel, as well as an increasing campaign of the de-legitimization of Israel that has been taking place on an international basis, if we do not resolve the question of settlements."
Responding to his vilifications in less than two days, former Israeli ambassador to Canada, Alan Baker, shot back a letter:
"Dear Secretary Kerry.... After listening to you declare repeatedly over the past weeks that "Israel's settlements are illegitimate", I respectfully wish to state, unequivocally, that you are mistaken and ill advised, both in law and in fact."
He reminds Kerry that according to the Oslo Accords, signed onto by President Clinton:
"Pursuant to the "Oslo Accords", and specifically the Israel-Palestinian Interim Agreement (1995), the "issue of settlements" is one of subjects to be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations. President Bill Clinton on behalf of the US, is signatory as witness to that agreement, together with the leaders of the EU, Russia, Egypt, Jordan and Norway."
In further scathing rebuke, the Ambassador concluded:
"By your repeating this ill-advised determination that Israel's settlements are illegitimate, and by your threatening Israel with a "third Palestinian intifada" and international isolation and delegitimization, you are in fact buying into, and even fueling the Palestinian propaganda narrative, and exerting unfair pressure on Israel. This is equally the case with your insistence on a false and unrealistic time limit to the negotiation. As such you are taking sides, thereby prejudicing your own personal credibility, as well as that of the US."
Wishful thinking notwithstanding, at the present time there is no solution that bodes well for Israel. As long as Arabs hate Jews more than they love their own children, this conflict will remain irreconcilable. As the past 30 years have shown, unrequited concessions just ratchet up more demands since the Arabs believe all of Israel is rightfully theirs. These defunct, innumerable talks only foment additional Palestinian recalcitrance. It's long overdue for Israel to go back to the future, and independently of the United States, set its own negotiating standards and nor be reticent to walk out if they're not met.
Let's turn to an even more vexing threat to world peace, the Iran nuclear negotiations.
With the second round of talks slated to begin this week in Geneva between Iran and the West, let's examine the deals most likely on the table.
Goal of Israel and the West: Prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
Iran's Goal: To get the economic sanctions lifted and get as close as possible to a nuclear weapon.
Despite intentional ambiguity put out by the administration, there are three possible agreements they see as plausible: the Faux Deal:
A preliminary agreement whereby we pause some economic sanctions if Iran agrees to pause some of its uranium nuclear programs. According to press reports, that is what the Obama administration and Iran had agreed to in the last round of negotiations, before the French stepped in to protest. Interestingly, not Israeli pressure, but French nixed the deal.
If Obama thinks this is a good deal he must have a lot of trust in these guys. Worse than no deal at all, Iran, with no threat of sanction or military action could still pursue nuclear weapons while playing a time saving, meaningless game of quid pro quo with the West.
Mirage Deal: This deal would have the West drop all sanctions in exchange for Iran freezing in place any further nuclear development. Even in the doubtful event that Iran would actually adhere to this, questions would remain concerning its present stockpile of enriched weapon-grade uranium. With most experts agreeing Iran is months, not years away from a deliverable nuclear weapon, could the West, the Gulf states, and most particularly Israel live with this scenario?
The real deal is the one which the administration claimed was their goal from the beginning. In exchange for dropping all sanctions, the holocaust-threatening ayatollahs would agree to forfeit their highly-enriched uranium, dismantle their plutonium reactor, and agree to an ironclad inspections regime. Good luck on that one
Having gone so long on nuclear weapon development and a missile delivery system, it doesn't seem rational they would forgo their self described messianic calling for a weapon this late in the game. So where does this leave Israel?
No doubt smarter minds than mine in Israel see what's going on out there and recognize that the big kid on the block, their once powerful friend that always had their back, has moved on. American and Israeli foreign policy are now divergent. To insure some semblance of a legacy, Obama is desperate for a deal, Israel is desperate for one too but one she can survive with.
It's time for the Jewish state to stand up and break away from the obsessive negotiating of the Obama administration which fails to recognize that Tehran is closer to Jerusalem than St. Louis is to New York. A messianic, nuclear-armed Iran is a threat to the whole world -- but its professed goal, consistently uttered, is the annihilation of Israel. If not preemption, it may be time for Israel to lift the veil of ambiguity of its own nuclear capabilities and directly confront the cabal in Iran and explain to the Iranian people the consequences that will be wrought if they are attacked.