Those who know me know that I held back nothing in my blistering attacks on Netanyahu and Ya’alon during the Gaza War. In my view, it was a failure, both of leadership and strategically. But for the scary scenario of Tsipi Livni being in charge of Israel, my support for Bibi has PM would be far less than it is.
But when it comes to Netanyahu’s address to Congress – you won’t find me on the side of the critics. Netanyahu’s decision to speak to Congress is drawing important attention on the nuclear talks and, because of his straight-forwardness and vocal opposition, Obama and Kerry are going to think twice now before making a deal identical to what Netanyahu is warning about. And as David Horovitz points out, Netanyahu isn’t just crying wolf about the deal that is in the making.
In terms of Netanyahu’s speech, agreeing with the idea of speaking, in theory, does not mean that what Netanyahu says will be the right thing. But I encourage him to stick to substance and specifics, and away from cliches and slogans, if he really wants to make the speech meaningful. He should therefore highlight the following:
a) concrete examples of Iran’s nefariousness and exporting of terrorism throughout the world (What Iran is really like);
b) concrete examples of Iran’s failures to cooperate with the IAEA and unanswered questions about their program (What Iran has already done); and
c) the consequences of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon, including a regional arms race, the threat to Israel and Europe, and how much stronger this will make Iran (What Iran wants in the future); and
d) and last but not least, a plan if negotiations fail, including concrete examples of what Obama himself, and congress, can do, to ensure the noose tightens on Iran if they are not going to defang their nuclear program (How to keep up the fight against Iran).
Netanyahu needs his speech to be substantive, a call to action, and concrete – otherwise, it will accomplish very little.
In any case, when Kerry says America won’t make a bad deal, I believe him about as far as I can throw him. Any deal will be so complex that Kerry will always be able to rationalize his way out of any prior comments to the contrary. And Obama and Kerry would both be long out of power, when Iran’s deception and breaking of the deal becomes fully known. So they can’t plan a seed, but don’t really have to car what sprouts.
While opposing Netanyahu’s speech, Netanyahu’s critics have done what critics of Israel do generally – confuse cause and effect. This error permeates even the issue of Israel’s conquering of the West Bank and Gaza. Israel captured these lands in a defensive war – the cause was the desire of the Arab countries around Israel to annihilate it. Never is the Arab military build-up and threat to Israel mentioned as a preface to what happened in 1967 when reported by the mainstream media.
It is likewise with Netanyahu’s speech. Netanyahu didn’t cause Obama to be hostile to Israel – Obama’s worldview simply doesn’t accord with Israel’s. Obama’s Middle East policy is an outright failure – he openly backed the Muslim Brotherhood over el-Sisi. He befriends enemies like Iran and Qatar while turning his back on Saudi Arabia and Egypt. His policies are disastrous. This all has nothing to do with Netanyahu.
The collision course, therefore, isn’t something Netanyahu caused, but rather something Netanyahu is reacting to and, in reality, has no choice but to do so.
In a very candid interview with Ynet, Meir Dagan, former Head of the Mossad, sounded the alarm about all the damage Dagan says Netanyahu has done. My suspicion, denials notwithstanding, is that Dagan’s frequent comments against Netanyahu are more personally motivated that he acknowledges. I am therefore not a big supporter of Dagan’s outbursts. Even still, I found myself agreeing with some of Dagan’s points (especially with respect to his commentary on the Gaza War). His arguments on the nuclear issue also have some validity. However, his entire argument broke down with the following comments:
Two issues in particular concern me with respect to the talks between the world powers and Iran: What happens if and when the Iranians violate the agreement, and what happens when the period of the agreement comes to an end and they decide to pursue nuclear weapons?
Israel could have ensured American assurances of action if and when the deal is broken. Given the current state of relations, however, I doubt that’s achievable now.
“American assurances of action if and when the deal is broken?” Dagan basically says we should leave Israel’s security in the hands of America. And this is where the argument falls apart. Time and time again, Israeli politicians who have taken dangerous risks have done so by proclaiming an “assurance”, such as for full American support when things go wrong, that is always forgotten when the danger becomes reality. Remember the letter Bush gave to Sharon in 2004? Obama doesn’t.
So what happens if there is no deal? America goes right back into the mode that brought Iran to the table in the first place – more sanctions, squeezing their economy, covert sabotage operations, as well as diplomatic pressure. Indeed, Dagan himself acknowledges the effectiveness of these tactics.
Keeping silent in the face of threats to the Jewish people has a horrible track record. There will always be those Jews, and Jewish organizations, who worry about being, as Alan Dershowitz terms it, a “shande fur da goyim.” For some Jews, the real motivation will always be about not rocking the boat, and making sure they fit in with their non-Jewish (read: Democract) friends. Others may genuinely believe that Netanyahu’s trip to Congress is a net negative for Israel – but in doing so, they need to recognize that back-channel communications have not worked, and Netanyahu is faced with an unenviable dilemma.
Moreover, even those against Netanyahu need to admire a man who, in the face of pressure from all sides, friends and enemies alike, sticks with his plan and doesn’t back down. Unlike Dagan’s feelings about Bibi’s intentions, I believe Netanyahu is going to Washington because he believes it is right, and Obama and Kerry have left him no other options. Bibi knows: history has shown that silence kills.