7/22/15 My View From Tel Aviv on the IRan Agreement
I live in Tel Aviv, within shouting distance from Israel’s Army Headquarters and what I would no doubt be ground zero for any nuclear attack on Israel.( As such, maintaining a secure Israel is, without question, imperative to me. I have always been a strong supporter of A.I.P.A.C., believing the Jewish State requires a strong lobby and understanding the very origins of the organization – (i.e. in 1956, when President Eisenhower forced Israel to make concessions that were against Israel’s national interest at the time.)
I have also always been a critic of J-Street. While I believe there needs to be a strong left-wing Zionist organization in the U.S., I do not feel that group must be a Washington lobby. I have long been uneasy with Jewish organizations whose members do not live here criticizing the security policies of Israel. Moreover, I believe that J-Street played a counterproductive role during the negotiations, (by pushing for the swift conclusion of an agreement, thus giving Teheran extra leverage.)
To my surprise, the events of the last few days have forced me to reexamine my position. While I doubt I will ever be a staunch supporter of J-Street and their enthusiasm for a less the perfect deal is unsettling, at this moment, they seem to be one of the few Jewish organization playing the role of “the responsible adult”. Living in Tel Aviv I was amazed (but not shocked) that Israeli politicians – who had not read the text of the agreement – worked to out do each other claiming: “It is a dark day”, or “it (meaning, the agreement with Iran) is worse than the Munich Agreement”.
After reading the text of the entire agreement, I believe the deal is far from perfect (and certainly not the agreement I would have composed), it is unquestionably a reasonable outcome from the balance of forces at work in Vienna. Many fail to grasp that when you enter negotiations, you are unlikely to end up with your optimal solution. You hope to achieve a resolution you can live with. This agreement is exactly that – far from optimal – but one that everyone (except for the poor Syrian people) should be able to live with.
Under the dictates of the new deal, the Iranians will not have sufficient Uranium to build a bomb for 15 years (unless they decide to cheat.) As a result, for the next 15 years they will not be able to annihilate us. Critics question – what will happen at the end of the 15 years? This agreement never affords Iranians the right to build a bomb. In fact, the agreement maintains an intrusive inspection regime, in perpetuity, to forestall such an outcome. Critics of the deal are correct, in that after 15 years Iran will be able to produce enough Uranium to quickly build a bomb – i.e. if it chooses to ignore it’s obligations.
Surely no one really thought the Iranians were going to concede to an agreement that would forbid them from enriching Uranium indefinitely? The truth is, writing from Central Tel Aviv today, I have full confidence the IDF has the means to stop any Iranian missile from reaching us, and even greater confidence that in 15 years those means will be even more fool-proof.
Other critics insist (rightly so), that the Iranians will likely deceive the inspectors. Here, my reply to those who condemn the deal is – Yes, Iran may cheat. However, they would be able to cheat on any agreement. Then, critics contend that the lack of an “anytime, anywhere” inspection regime is alarming. On that point, I absolutely agree! A swifter means of implementing inspections would definitely be preferred. However, lacking stipulation was not a deal breaker.
A prime concern is that the Iranians will build a secret nuclear facility. It is impossible to hide a secret nuclear plant in 25 days. Even if you are able to move all of the fissionable material, this material leaves behind traces that cannot be erased. Therefore, the 25 days it takes to inspect a site will not protect Iran from discovery. Detractors then fall back on the claim that the Russians or the Chinese can block any inspection. Making this allegation only highlights the fact they have not read the agreement (as based on the agreement, the U.S. needs support from its European allies to force an inspection.)
Then, continuing their protests, denouncers of the deal usually raise the contention that Iran is a terror-supporting state that is about to receive billions and billions of dollars as a result of the agreement. These allegations are all true. Iran is a terror-supporting, anti-American, anti-Israel regime, who supports some of the worst groups in the world. However, what the prophets of doom conveniently forget – These funds are not foreign aid that anyone is awarding Iran. These multiple billions of dollars belong to Iran. This is money that the world impounded as part of the sanctions regime. Did anyone really think there could be an agreement with Iran in which they would not get their money back?
Finally, critics respond that the arms embargo against Iran should not have been lifted in 5 years. Here, again, I agree with critics. U.S. Secretary of State Kerry is to blame for caving-in on this issue. Lifting of the Iranian arms embargo truly should have been tied to Iran stopping its support for Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist organizations. Nevertheless, this is not a good enough reason to throw out all the gains that were achieved in this recent agreement.
So, why did Israelis react the way they did to the announcement of the Iranian agreement? Why, (instead of attacking President Obama and the agreement) couldn't Prime Minister Netanyahu say: This is not a perfect agreement. However, we thank you for your hard work. We look forward to working with you to ensuring Israel’s future regime and ensuring the agreement is fully implemented by Teheran?
Why did the majority of Israeli politicians attack this U.S. brokered agreement as well? Netanyahu’s responses have become almost Pavlovian – if Obama agreed, the deal must be bad; and if the agreement does not include effective regime change, then the agreement is completely worthless. Regarding politicians in the Knesset’s opposition, I can only believe some are afraid of being called “soft” on Iran (keeping their eyes on the next election.) , while others believe that if they said it was a good agreement Netanyahu would somehow get credit.
This brings me back to A.I.P.A.C. and J-Street … I must admit I was disappointed when I heard that both the Israeli government and the opposition were going to fight the agreement in Congress. However, when I heard that A.I.P.A.C. and many other Jewish organizations were following Bibi Netanyahu like lemmings and opposing the agreement, I asked myself – Did anyone actually game out the results of a fight with the American Administration in the United States Congress?
To my understanding, there are only two possible outcomes to this strategy of derailing the Iranian agreement: 1) President Obama wins and Congress fails to override his veto. In this scenario, all of those who opposed the agreement are weakened. A.I.P.A.C. will be exposed to be considerably less powerful than it purports to be, and the agreement remains in force. 2) The agreement is successfully voted down and the U.S. does not implement the agreement. By the time that happens the Europeans will have already removed some of their sanctions, as will have the U.N. In this scenario, we will be left with a situation where the Iranians will be receiving most of their money , will not be bound by the agreement. Thus there will be no sanctions and an Iranian bomb. In either outcome we will have a very angry U.S. President and Democratic party that at best will have negative feelings toward Israel. . How does this scenario serve the interests of the State of Israel or the Jewish community?
The current deal with Iran is not a perfect agreement. However, it is the only agreement that we have. One can criticize the Obama administration and claim they could have gotten a better agreement. That determination lies with future historians. We are faced with today’s reality – and today, the only realistic solution is to support the agreement, and press to make sure it is enforced meticulously. Any other position is self-defeating.