It was a Friday morning. Just another day. The residents of Tel Aviv were going about their mundane business, working, shopping, playing at the beach, preparing for the Sabbath. It came out of nowhere. A blinding flash of light, as if a thousand suns had exploded. Within sixteen seconds, almost one million Israelis had perished or were severely injured.
The 20 kiloton nuclear bomb had been launched by Iran into the heart of Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Square. It came just a month after the expiration of the United States-Iran Framework for a Nuclear-Free Iran, signed by former President Obama in 2015. At the time, the New York Times had hailed the Framework Agreement as an “historic” breakthrough, one designed, in the words of President Obama, to prevent Iran from ever reaching the “pathway” to obtaining nuclear weapons. The former President repeatedly had reassured former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that, if he liked his country, he could keep his country. During the negotiations of the agreement, Iran had stated emphatically that the “destruction of the State of Israel was non-negotiable,” but this had been dismissed at the time as propaganda.
Since the signing of the agreement and the lifting of sanctions on Iran, Iran had refused to cooperate with United Nations’ inspectors. Several resolutions condemning Iran’s failure to abide by the Framework’s inspection program were introduced in the General Assembly of the U.N., but none passed. Attempts to reimpose sanctions on Iran had been rejected as “counterproductive.”
Ninety minutes after the strike on Tel Aviv, Israel retaliated. It launched its own 20 kiloton bomb into the heart of Tehran and two other 20 kiloton bombs designed to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities in Fordow and Arak, which continued to operate under the Framework Agreement. Iran suffered nearly 2 million deaths and hundreds of thousands of casualties, many of them women and children.
Former President Obama, reached in the New York office of the hedge fund where he has served as Chairman since leaving office, issued a statement expressing his “deepest sympathies” for victims on all sides. He strongly condemned Iran, stating that it had crossed a “red line,” and insisted that “there would be consequences.” The former President also criticized Israel’s response as “an obstacle to the peace process.”
Former Secretary of State John Kerry, who negotiated the Framework Agreement with Iran, reached in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he was celebrating the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Framework Agreement by participating in a 10k biking event, insisted that the agreement itself was solid, but stated “it would appear that Iran did not live up to its end of the deal.” Wendy Sherman, who was Kerry’s chief negotiator, and also the chief negotiator on the failed North Korean nuclear talks, declined comment.
Reaction around the world was swift. European leaders condemned Israel’s attack on Iran. President Mohammed Ahmed of France, President Mohammed Amir of Germany, and President Mohammed Azim of Belgium issued a joint statement declaring Israel’s attack “heinous.” The United Nations Security Council immediately met in emergency session and condemned Israel. The world press generally criticized Israel’s response as “disproportionate,” noting that less than 1 million Israelis perished in the attacks, while Iranian deaths were almost double that amount, many of them women and children. The Pope issued a prayer for peace from the Vatican in 47 different languages and called for “healing.” A spokesman for the Palestinian Liberation Authority lamented the loss of a vast swath of olive trees from radioactive fallout.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of refugees from both Israel and Iran seek refuge in countries not affected by the devastation and fallout. Those from Iran have been welcomed into the 22 Arab countries in the region, although most have been placed in refugee camps where conditions are said to be less than ideal. The Israeli refugees face a more difficult time in relocating. President George P. Bush (the son of former President Jeb Bush, nephew of former President George W. Bush and grandson of former President Herbert Walker Bush) said that, with its own immigration crisis still unresolved, the United States would only be able to take in some 10,000 of the estimated 2 million Israeli refugees and, even then, they would not be granted a “path to citizenship.”
In the United States, American Jews are united in their support for their Israeli brethren. A memorial concert at Madison Square Garden is planned. And demonstrations continue throughout the country under the banner: “Never Again – – Again.”