New York Times columnist Tom Friedman in an opinion piece on February 4th entitled “A Bad Mistake” referring to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s planned speech to a joint session of Congress, gets it wrong once again.
Friedman supports his contention that it was a mistake for Netanyahu to accept House Speaker Boehner’s invitation and bases his argument, of course, by quoting others who also believe it is not in Israel’s best interests for the Prime Minister to address the Congress. That does not prove it is a mistake it just shows that others are also against the move.
He goes on to say: “Netanyahu’s concerns about Iran are not without merit. But his aggressiveness is also not without critics in Israel. If Congress wants to get Israel’s perspective on how to deal with Iran, then it should also invite the top Israeli intelligence and military officers, current and retired, who have been arguing publicly against Netanyahu’s threatened use of force against Iran. Why are we getting only one Israeli view? How is that in America’s interest?”
But Friedman misunderstands what the Prime Minister’s issue has been and continues to be. He also misinterprets the advice of senior security people here. Everyone here agrees that everything possible should be done to make sure Iran does not go nuclear. There is a difference of opinion only on the tactics not on the main message.
I was privileged earlier this week to be invited to a relatively intimate gathering at the Prime Minister’s residence here in Jerusalem where about 50 of us listened to his viewpoints on a number of issues in the run-up to the elections here in March. Of course, one of the main topics was security.
The Prime Minister made it clear and my sense is that the audience that night believed him, that permitting Iran to become a nuclear power will dramatically change the geopolitical situation in the region and put the entire world at risk. He went on to say, and the facts back him up on this, that while the P5+1 group of nations have made concession after concession in order to keep the Iranian negotiators at the table, the Iranians have made virtually no concessions. This is the same Iran that was brought to its knees by economic sanctions imposed by the west which sanctions brought them to the negotiating table in the first place. But, instead of forcing the negotiations to achieve their goal of de-nuclearizing Iran before lifting the sanctions, for all practical purposes the bulk of those sanctions were lifted immediately while Iran continues to move forward with its nuclear program.
The Prime Minister is not going to Washington to suggest that America or any other nation attack Iran. Rather his purpose is to continue to alert people, wherever he is given a platform to do so, to the real dangers of permitting Iran to become a nuclear-industrial power and what that will mean to the world at large. The sad part is that he is the only national leader in the entire world speaking out in this manner.
One might ask, of course, if that is the case perhaps he is wrong? But as Jews, history has taught us to take threats of annihilation and destruction seriously and to do whatever we can to prevent regimes committed to our destruction from gaining the weaponry that makes that possible. For that reason the Prime Minister is obligated to take our message to the world and if that makes Tom Friedman and others uncomfortable, so be it. History is a great teacher and we have learned our lessons well.
Winston Churchill once said: “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” The sooner the Tom Friedman’s of the world recognize this; the better off all of us will be for it.