Gary Rosenblatt, in his Between the Lines column last week (“Israel Lobby And The White House: “Who’ll Blink First?”) tries to build a chain of evidence from some provocative statements made by Yasir Arafat to support for the Menendez-Kirk sanctions bill, but his logic doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.
He maintains that tolerance for Arafat’s statements led to Arafat’s blowing up the Oslo process. First, Arafat did not blow up Oslo all by himself. He was aided in this by successive Israeli administrations who kept insisting on building more settlements. Second, can we assume that [Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani equals Arafat?
Many politicians, particularly in the Middle East, make provocative comments to their base and more conciliatory statements to counterparties. If we always assumed the provocative comments were more sincere than the conciliatory ones, we would now be blaming [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu for blowing up the current Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
In Rouhani’s case, if we assume incorrectly that he is insincere, we risk blowing up our best change to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. If we assume incorrectly that he is sincere, we will find out the truth soon enough and will have ample opportunity to increase sanctions.
The Menendez-Kirk bill does not, as its proponents claim, strengthen the administration’s hand but rather ties its hands by imposing unreasonable conditions, such as a total stop to enrichment even for peaceful use, requiring certification that Iran does not back terrorism, and committing the U.S. to back an Israeli military strike against Iran. Of course we would like a total stop to Iranian enrichment, but that is totally unrealistic. Of course we oppose Iran’s backing of terrorism, but that shouldn’t keep us from trying to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Quite the opposite is true. And our support for Israel doesn’t mean that we should engage in yet another Mideast war. In fact, quite the opposite is true.
The writer is a member of the executive committee of J Street’s Northern New
Jersey chapter, co-chair of the chapter’s communications committee, and a
member of the organization’s New York City chapter’s communications