On Oct. 2, 2002, President George W. Bush asked and received authorization from Congress to go to war with Iraq. Just one month before, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the Congress saying, “If you take out Saddam, Saddam’s regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations in the region.” Nothing could have been further from the truth.
Our involvement in Iraq emboldened and strengthened Iran, greatly weakened our position in Afghanistan as we diverted critical assets to Iraq, and contributed to the present instability of the region. So much for the prime minister’s guarantee. Now, just as vociferously, he guarantees that unless there is a perfect, ironclad nuclear deal, Iran will be capable of building a bomb. This Iran “anti-deal” nuclear position is just as shortsighted and wrong-headed as the Iraq war.
There was no surprise in AIPAC’s critique of the deal. The pro-Israel lobby’s statement read in part: “If we don’t demand Iran give up its most dangerous capabilities it will build a bomb at a time of its choosing.”
If President Obama could not demand of Israel, our closest and most dependent ally, a cessation of settlement building, a relatively simple request, can he make demands on China and Russia, our generally unreliable negotiating partners? In reality, how much can he demand of Iran? The idea that the United States, however powerful, can pull all the strings is a kind of arrogance that needs to be tempered with reality.
No other nuclear country, including Israel, would even consider observers of their facilities. The fact that Iran has engaged in this dialogue is a credit to Obama who, before proposing a military option, is intelligently and sensibly trying first to negotiate an arrangement that would limit Iran’s ability to build a nuclear weapon. .
According to AIPAC, accepting the proposed framework, bombing the nuclear infrastructure, or just hoping for the best are not the only options. They believe the real choice is between an agreement leaving Iran on the threshold of a nuclear weapon 10 to 15 years from now or one that will prevent Iran from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon. This is a clear case of the impossible agreement driving out the possible.
It is not a sure thing that additional sanctions will cause the Iranians to make more concessions. The opposite may be true. If that deal should fall apart, with no observers in Iran there would surely be a race to develop a weapon. What happens then?
We bomb their facilities. What happens then? They retaliate in some way — maybe bombing Israel. What happens then? Since the Iranians have the knowledge, they start another program. What happens then?
Why be so quick to undermine the negotiations? Is fighting better than talking first?
Among his predecessors, American presidential scholars agree that President Obama, both in word and deed, has been the greatest friend to Israel. He has no equal in terms of financial support and intelligence sharing. Whatever the outcome of the negotiations, the president has pledged to do whatever is necessary to protect Israel. Yet there are those who will find a word here or there that help them confirm their preconceived notion that the president is untrustworthy. It’s time to get over it. It’s time to support President Obama’s effort on behalf of all of us to continue working to achieve the best path to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability.
Edith Everett is a Jewish activist and member of the board of directors of The Jewish Week.