Bibi, you’ve been fleeced!

Here’s the deal: Iran gets nuclear power status and a bomb in 15 years (a blink of an eye in a historical timeline). Iran becomes financially empowered by the effective end of sanctions, by oil trade and by world powers lining up to do business. Iran now has hegemony in the Middle East with an acknowledged presence on the northern borders of Israel both in Lebanon and Syria and further afield in Iraq and Yemen. If there was an “axis of evil” they sure have managed to grow it. They are obligated to a sloppy agreement whereby they agree not to enrich uranium over a minimal level; however inspections are contingent on fair play and limited in time. To roll that mammoth back in the event of infractions is not, let’s all agree, viable. I heard the butcher of Damascus praising the deal yesterday. Very nice.

Here’s what Bibi gets: Jonathan Pollard. (No offence J.P., you deserve your freedom).

This is worse than being “fleeced.” This is being whipped in public in the town square.

It could have been different. We could all have been in the midst of a celebration built on the foundations of the Geneva Initiative and the API (Arab Peace Initiative). Iran could have been further in the hole it was digging for itself, under the tremendous weight of sanctions and a population disaffected with its government, remembering the false election results of 2009, the perpetual killings and reign of terror in the Islamic Republic.

Israel could have emerged as the centerpiece of a powerful piece of diplomacy by the U.S., together with the members of the Arab league and a new alliance based on cooperation, peace, trade and empowerment of its participants. In place of this, we have countries of the Middle East — from Turkey to Saudi Arabia to Egypt who will all be looking towards individual nuclear capability and ultimately, nuclear threshold status at some point in time, consequent to this shocking precedent and the threat that comes with it.

But it’s not just Netanyahu, the settlement-addiction enabler, who is responsible for the mess. Sadly, the current U.S. Administration is primarily to blame for this state of affairs.


Like many of my progressive liberal friends and acquaintances in the U.S., I would no doubt vote Democrat in the coming presidential elections. The Obama administration surprisingly racked up quite a few achievements, partly in the form of non-disasters, but that in itself has value. The prophets of doom were proved wrong. The economy has not collapsed. QE has not created the doomsday inflation many predicted. Hard core Milton Friedman aficionados who wished to see the end of General Motors and inject pain and suffering to start afresh, have had to eat their hats. Medical health for all Americans has become a reality and a fact, with all the bureaucracy and discomfort it brings with it. Maybe it’s a states rights’ issue. Maybe not. I just don’t get that stuff, because it’s clear to all today, that basic health care was sorely needed for decades. Civil rights have moved yet another step forward. Gay marriage is legal. Even the prohibition on weed has become obsolete.

It’s not all Obama of course; the Supreme Court has essentially brought the lame duck back into the pond. But the spirit of the times has changed and is changing. Guns?  Well, that’s a tough one. We have to leave something for Hillary, no?

Obama Carelessness

The thing is, I’m not an American. I’m a Jewish progressive liberal who lives in Israel under the threat of a nuclear Iran and who wishes to see a two state solution rather than a one state fiasco. From this side of the ocean, we see things very differently. Three fortuitous opportunities came our way for a solid reach for peace and security, and they were ignored, ruined and wasted.

  • Settlement freeze and negotiation in 2010.
  • The Kerry initiative
  • The cease fire following the war in Gaza

Of the sophistry of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, we all know. Even his supporters understood that the supposedly epic Bar Ilan speech endorsing a two state solution was a ruse to keep the Americans happy; to ward off increasing isolation and to continue the settlement project unperturbed until the next crisis. The settlement freeze lasted ten months during which time Israel built merrily in occupied territory because “children need preschool facilities, and families grow and need homes”. It was meant to enable meaningful negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis. We have on record, leading Palestinian figures who say that the talks were not talks, that maps were never brought to the table and that no serious effort was made by the government of Israel. When the time cap was over, rather than use the muscle of American power and authority, to continue the settlement freeze and force Netanyahu’s hand, Obama simply capitulated to fears of a backlash from AIPAC and worries of the impact on a future election. Rather than censure, Israel got F35s. And that, dear friends, is Obama foreign policy in a nutshell.

The second piece of shabby diplomacy became evident when the Kerry talks fell apart. Kerry worked studiously to build a piece of important foreign policy. However carelessness and lack of foresight created a crisis-moment that was bound to end any chance of success: The first problem was that rather than insist of a settlement freeze — clearly the basis for any reconciliation with Palestinians, the U.S. agreed to Israel’s suggestion of releasing convicted terrorists as tranches in the talks. Kerry fell into the trap, and forgot to outline in detail which prisoners exactly. When the final tranche came to release convicted Israeli prisoners, Israel insisted that Arab Israeli citizens were not part of the deal. Abbas insisted they were. Kerry lost his homework and forgot who said what. A great excuse for Israel to move away from negotiation. But the question really is: where was Obama? That crisis was precisely the moment he needed to step in and bang heads together. Kerry came out of this scathed and credulous. Obama simply walked away.

The next moment of opportunity came following “Protective Edge”, after which it is was clear that all major players in the Middle East wished to see a solid, far-reaching solution to the crisis. By this time Kerry’s integrity was in tatters in Israel due to his initial shoddy cease-fire draft when he presented a plan to enable Hamas to keep its rockets. This time the cat peed on his homework. And even following this snafu, the opportunities where still there. But where was Obama?

Obama Cares Less

The insolence, the disrespect, the maneuverings to outflank the Administration via congress, by Netanyahu with his cartoon sketches and stand-up ovation-verbiage on Iran were of course, of his own making. The Obama administration was already desperately seeking some diplomatic coup de grace, so why confront Bibi, AIPAC, congressmen? Netanyahu is a brick wall anyway. If he was going into confrontation at home, he would bring in the sledge hammer: Iran, welcomed into the family of nations, backed by P5+1 which really makes any deal irreversible.

The Doctrine

The United States has now been stripped of any trace of integrity when it comes to preaching human rights, democracy, freedom, empowerment of women, respect for human life, to any other nation. The mad idea that America will bear-hug, Iran to an epiphany of western values, lies in tatters like the flags of Israel and the U.S. burned and trampled on the streets of Teheran following the “success” of these negotiations.The fact is that Obama has neither a doctrine, nor a foreign policy, nor indeed any coherent method of world leadership in contrast to his careful and consistent actions within the U.S. itself. Assertiveness is not part of the lexicon. There was a glimmer of heroic resolve and steadfastness at the time of Bin Laden’s capture, but the flame went out. We, in the Middle East, were left with red lines forgotten; off-ramps for any crisis; the butcher from Damascus building a human abattoir on our borders; Iran’s vassal mini-state, South Lebanon under Hezbollah, armed with 150,000 rockets; chemical weapons from Syria lost and mislaid — no doubt in the hands of ISIL.

So America, thank you for the Pollard bone. (No offence J.P., you deserve your freedom). We will chew on it while we watch and wait as Netanyahu, fleeced yet proud, takes us into the sunset of the one-state nightmare singing Iran, Iran, Iran.

About the Author
Originally from South Africa, Jonathan made aliya in the seventies, and lived and worked on a kibbutz for several years. He has a graduate degree in business from Boston University and is a managing partner of an Israeli based business. He was a co-founder of the Forum Tzora peace action group and participates in the Geneva Initiative workshops. He is the author of the book “Valley of Heaven and Earth”.