By Tamara Upfal, student — Brown University, dateline: Jerusalem
It is 9:30 AM and I am sound asleep from a late night on Ben Yehuda when suddenly, the sound of sirens fills my ears and I jolt up in bed. For a second I think I am dreaming, but the wailing of the sirens continues on and on, ringing outside the window and everywhere around me. I jump out of bed, shake my roommate awake and we sprint out of our room. In the hallway everyone is half-awake, half-dressed, and half-terrified. We run into the basement to wait, unsure of what to do exactly. We are all American living in Israel for the first time this summer. It isn’t until some of the students living in our building for months pass us by and tells us it is a drill, that our hearts begin to beat slower. They proceed to tell us about their first drills, laughing about all of their shared experiences and stories. This is just another part of their life, a given of living in Israel along with lots of hummus and rude bus drivers. It is only us Americans, new to this life, who cannot fathom living under a certain kind of constant alertness.
Later in the day, I am at work reading about the Iran deal, analyzing its pros and cons, thinking about its consequences for the international community. But I begin to think about the people affected by this deal who were never considered by world leaders. While Obama and Ali Khameni negotiated over economic sanctions and number of centrifuges, did they really consider the tension created by their deal that will disrupt the daily lives of millions and leave them uneasy? What about the Israeli and Iranian lives?
How did the American administration have the power to make a deal that so profoundly impacts every Israeli citizen’s sense of security without ever in their life experience running for shelter from what could be a bomb? What about the citizens of the Arab world whose lives and land will be destroyed if (and probably when) Iran ignores the treaty, continues with its nuclear weapons, and the US resorts to military action, devastating the country and those surrounding it. What about the citizens of Arab Sunni states such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, who are terrified for their lives if Iran secures a nuclear weapon?
The United States, by acting as the leader on the Iran deal, took on the responsibility of protecting not only the citizens of Israel, its close ally, but the lives of citizens of every country in the Middle East. By focusing too much on economic incentives and surrendering to international pressure, the United States failed to secure in place concrete and effective methods of ensuring global security. The 24 day clause, which gives Iran 24 days after the international community requests an inspection to prepare makes it almost impossible to hold Iran accountable and ensure that it is following the agreement. In the words of PM Netanyahu, that’s a lot of time to flush a lot of meth down the toilet.
Secondly, every single piece of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure will remain intact, meaning it will take Iran (at the longest) a year to produce nuclear weapons if it decides. Thus the United States failed to fulfill its responsibility to protect American citizens, Israeli citizens, and citizens of the world. Today the world is a more dangerous place because we do not have strong measures in place to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. World leaders are often removed from the impacts their decisions have on civilians all of the world.
Today I have experienced just a small taste of reality living in a country under constant threat of bombs that are not yet nuclear. To think that Israel is at risk, this beautiful country that I have fallen in love with over the summer, could be destroyed from holy Jerusalem to vibrant Tel Aviv to the majestic Negev to breathtaking Eilat, is both inconceivable and deeply, deeply troubling. Yet this is not exclusively a Jewish or Israeli sentiment, but rather a connection that every citizen around the world has to their country. I cannot imagine living every day in fear of a nuclear weapon, yet sadly that is a price that every person living in the Middle East will have to face soon.
Simply because far too often political games overshadow constructive political action, and world leaders forget — what about the people?