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America’s choice on Iran: Obama’s peace or Netanyahu's war

If Bibi, the Israel lobby and the GOP stymie this historic nuclear deal, it will be very bad for Israel, America and America’s Jews.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at their joint press conference in Jerusalem (photo: Koby Gidon / Government Press Office)

U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a joint press conference in Jerusalem. (photo: Koby Gidon / Government Press Office)

Anybody who thinks Obama has won, that Israel and the Israel lobby and the Republicans are just going to concede the Iran nuclear deal without a fight, could not be more wrong. For the Israeli and American Jews involved, this is the supreme cause of their lives – preventing another Holocaust, as they see it. The framework agreement announced last Thursday looks to them like Munich. These are the terms they use.

For the American gentile politicians involved, it’s partly this badly misplaced notion of “never again,” partly (for the Republicans) Obamaphobia, partly Islamophobia, and partly fear of the Israel lobby’s wrath if they let Obama and the Iranians sign a final deal, whose deadline is June 30, three months from now. All in all, the deal’s opponents have more than enough motivation to ensure that so long as there’s the slightest chance to head it off, they will be fighting with everything they’ve got.

And they’ve got much more than the slightest chance. The Republicans are pushing a Senate bill that would effectively give America’s last word on the deal to the GOP-controlled Congress, which would guarantee the setting of terms that Iran would  never accept, and the negotiations would collapse. Obama has promised to veto this bill and any other designed to kill the Iran deal, but if 67 senators sign this legislation, it becomes veto-proof. The Republicans reportedly have 66 senators committed to signing it.

I don’t think they will get to 67; instead, I think Obama will peel off some of the bill’s Democratic supporters because he is the president; because this is his “legacy” achievement and he and his supporters want it awfully bad; because this is a matter of war and peace; and because the Iran deal is very popular with everyone outside the Republicans, Israel, the Israel lobby and Iran’s Middle East enemies such as Saudi Arabia. So in the end, I’m betting that the deal will be done, and it will make the world a better place. But it’s not a sure thing by any means.

The engine behind the deal’s Republican-led opposition is Netanyahu and the Israel lobby. The top story in Sunday’s Jerusalem Post begins:

“Jerusalem will use the next three months until the June 30 Iranian nuclear deal deadline to argue forcefully against many of its provisions, specifically that it allows Iran’s massive nuclear infrastructure to remain in place, according to a senior government official.”

As if anyone had any doubt.

The most aggressive of the Israel lobby’s outfits, neocon William Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel, stated after the framework agreement was announced:

“The Emergency Committee for Israel expects that every member of Congress will do his duty and act to kill this proposed deal. … No friend of Israel can support it.”

The lobby’s two most prestigious organizations, AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, reacted like their typical smarmy selves, claiming they didn’t oppose a nuclear deal, just that they wanted a “good” deal, which could best be accomplished by letting Congress oversee the negotiations, increasing sanctions on Iran, confronting Iran in Yemen, Syria and Gaza, etc.

This is going to be a very rough, dirty three-month campaign in America. Nobody likes being called an appeaser, a supporter of Munich, a traitor, an enabler of a second Holocaust, or even just a weakling and a coward. It’s going to be particularly harsh and divisive for American Jews, who are already split between the laid-back, pro-Obama dovish majority and the obsessed, Obama-hating, Bibi-adoring hawkish minority.

I hope the Dems and the liberal Jewish leadership fight like hell, and by that I mean make the hawks bleed. Netanyahu, the lobby and the Republicans are lying about wanting a diplomatic solution; nobody believes in trying diplomacy with people they think of as Nazis bent on getting the Bomb. Instead, the hawks want to force the Obama administration to offer impossible terms to Iran so Iran will turn them down, quit the negotiations and go back to where it is now: with a “breakout time” of only two to three months, meaning the time it would take the Iranians to enrich enough weapons-grade uranium to assemble a nuclear bomb, if they decided to do so. This would leave the U.S. no choice but to attack Iran – either by acting alone or with Israel – seeing as how Obama, backed by just about every other world leader, has pledged to do whatever’s necessary to prevent Iran from building nukes.

If Bibi, the lobby and the GOP succeed in stymieing this historic, breakthrough deal, the Democrats and the rest of the world will never forget the decisive role Israel played. If the collapse of negotiations leads to an American war with Iran — what could be the first in a series of them — even the Republicans won’t forgive Israel. It will be remembered as “Bibi’s war.” It would reach Israel, too, via Hezbollah and its 100,000 missiles and rockets. The lost chance at peace, the war and the fallout from it would be very bad for America, for Israel, and for America’s Jews. And so the fight is on for “Obama’s peace.”

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    COMMENTS

    1. Ben

      Everything Bibi doesn’t want you to know about the Iran deal:

      http://m.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/04/the-real-achievement-of-the-iran-nuclear-deal/389628/
      The Real Achievement of the Iran Nuclear Deal
      Peter Beinart

      -First, it could reduce American dependence on Saudi Arabia.
      -Second, it could empower the Iranian people vis-à-vis their repressive state.
      -Third, ending the cold war with Iran may make it easier to end the civil wars plaguing the Middle East.

      Reply to Comment
      • Pedro X

        Deja Vu? Listen to Bill Clinton in 1994 talking about the framework deal for North Korea and how inspections would keep North Korea from developing a nuclear bomb:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TcbU5jAavw#t=45

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/07/opinion/roger-cohen-iran-united-states-embassy-tehran.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Froger-cohen

        “If the yardstick is effectiveness, and it must be, no conceivable alternative even comes close. Perfection is not part of diplomacy’s repertoire.

        President Obama, through his courageous persistence, has changed the strategic dynamic in the Middle East. As he reassures worried allies, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia, he has also signaled that the United States will pursue its national interest, even in the face of fierce criticism, where the logic of that interest is irrefutable. Blocking Iran’s path to a bomb, avoiding another war with a Muslim country, and re-establishing diplomatic contact with a stable power hostile to the butchers of the Islamic State amounts to a compelling case for an America faced by a fragmenting Middle Eastern order.

        It is not a bad thing to remind allies that enjoying irrevocable support from the United States cannot mean exercising a veto on American actions. Indeed, it may be a good thing, because it stimulates creative reflection.”

        Reply to Comment
    2. Yeah, Right

      Larry, there is a logic flaw in your argument that involves an unwarranted leap of faith.

      It occurs when you jump from “two to three months”….”from having enough weapons-grade uranium to assemble a nuclear bomb” to conclude that this necessitates a USA armed attack to “prevent Iran from building nukes.”

      The flaw is obvious: having a “two month breakout time” is not at all the same thing as “building nukes”.

      Plenty of countries have that same breakout time: South Korea, Japan, Brazil, Germany, Australia, and many more.

      Obama therefore has another choice: tell the world that while Iran **could** build a bomb if they wanted to he happens to be in possession of iron-clad intelligence that the Iranians have made the decision that they **don’t** want to take that path.

      And, gosh, that means that there is no need to attack! attack! attack!

      Heck, if he wanted to he could even offer to extend the USA’s nuclear umbrella over Iran, to protect it from other, ahem, some other crazies who do have nukes……

      Reply to Comment
    3. William Burns

      The weird thing about the deal is that it actually is Munich II, only Obama’s not Chamberlain–Rouhani is.

      Reply to Comment
      • Yeah, Right

        No, not really.

        Apart from the issue of sanctions (which only became an issue post-2006) this framework agreement is not in any fundamental way any different to the proposal that the Iranians put to the E3 (Britain, France, Germany) in the negotiations that came after the Paris Accord of November 2004.

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/10007603/Iran-how-the-West-missed-a-chance-to-make-peace-with-Tehran.html

        The E3 negotiators dismissed that offer – not because they thought it was bad (they thought it was excellent) but because GW Bush was lurking in the background, and the Europeans knew that he would accept nothing less than No Enrichment, Not Now, Not Ever.

        But this deal has been on the table for over a decade, and all that has happened now is that the USA has finally decided to accept it.

        Kerry can await his Nobel Peace Prize – that’s now a given – but in fact all that USA diplomacy has “achieved” has been to get in the way of deal that could have been sealed a decade ago.

        Because if those E3 negotiators had been left to their own devices then they could have – and would have – snapped up this deal back in 2005.

        Way To Go, Uncle Sam.

        Reply to Comment
    4. If the latest Iran nuke deal will realize and even implemented I think it will be a win-win solution for most of stakeholders with the possible exception of Saudi Arabia. This said especially when asked what is the alternative? From my perspective all alternatives – war, air-strike to facilities or more sanctions – are worse. Iran’s nuclear facilities around the country and underground might not be even known by Israeli intelligence and without tactical nuclear warheads the facilities are difficult to destroy so airstrikes probably don’t delay Iran’s nuclear programme more than planned deal. To Iran agreement lets continue its research and gives it the benefits of nuclear energy as well the benefits of nuclear medical research and gives good change to develop Iran’s economy with wider international cooperation.
      (more in “Iran Nuke Deal and Israel” – http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/iran-nuke-deal-and-israel/

      Reply to Comment
      • Yeah, Right

        There is also this to consider: if Congress kills this deal then the next step won’t be “more sanctions”, precisely because the other Five Countries in the P5+1 will simply throw their hands up in the air and give up expecting anything resembling “leadership” from Washington.

        So if Congress kills this dead and then shouts “More Sanctions! Who’s With Me?” the response will be……… nothing.

        Congress doesn’t appear to be able to grasp a simple truth: direct USA/Iran trade is next-to-zero, and so sanctions only work for as long as everyone else agrees to follow Washington’s lead.

        But nobody will follow Congress if it kills this deal, because who wants to follow in the path of a bunch of mindlessly-chattering turd-throwing monkeys?

        Reply to Comment
    5. Ben

      Obama may still be facing a very aggressive Bibi, the lobby and the GOP, but at the same time, this has the feel of a fait accompli, and a real triumph for Obama, if the Iranians carry through.

      And no one–no one who is for the deal at least–listens to Bibi anymore:

      Chemi Shalev: “This is the emerging nature of the prime minister’s current relations with the Obama administration and with liberal public opinion in America: instead of sparking anger, Netanyahu is being increasingly ignored. Netanyahu claims the new Iran agreement is “a threat to the survival of Israel?” Nu, shoyn, as they say in Yiddish: “Hot er gezogt.” So he said. …His new demand from deep left field to stipulate that Iran recognize Israel as a precondition to any nuclear accord was summarily dismissed in public by the State Department, but in private the officials’ reactions went from ridiculous to pathetic.”

      Senator Dianne Feinstein: “This can back backfire on him. I wish that he would contain himself, because he has put out no real alternative. In his speech to the Congress — no real alternative. Since then — no real alternative.” “I think that what Prime Minister Netanyahu did here was something that no ally of the United States would have done. I find it humiliating, embarrassing, and very arrogant because this agreement is not yet finished.”

      Reply to Comment
      • Yeah, Right

        Shalev: “His new demand from deep left field to stipulate that Iran recognize Israel as a precondition to any nuclear accord”…

        I know that he is far too polite to do it, but Zarif has a golden opportunity to put Netanyahu in his place.

        All he needs to do is to pose this rhetorical question to the press: “And I suppose he wants me to throw in a Pony as well?”

        When it comes to dealing with a bombastic boor like Bibi there is nothing so effective as mockery. And, boy oh boy, is Netanyahu just askin’ fer’ it.

        Reply to Comment
      • Yeah, Right

        As far as the “very aggressive Bibi” is concerned did anyone else notice the insults that Obama dished out in his statement to the press?

        The transcript is here:
        http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2015/04/02/president-obamas-full-remarks-announcing-a-framework-for-a-nuclear-deal-with-iran/

        Note these points:
        a) Obama goes out of his way to point out that he HAS already rung the Saudi King, but he HASN’T gotten around to ringing up Netanyahu yet.

        So on the list of order-of-importance it’s:
        Saudi King First.
        Washington Press Corp Second.
        Netanyahu Last.

        b) Obama makes the point that after Bibi gets his one (1) phone call then the Israeli file will get handed over to the Undersecretary-grade Underlings, but the Gulf States are being invited to a meet ‘n’ greet at Camp David.

        So on the list of scale-of-importance it’s:
        Gulf States deserve Presidential-level attention.
        Israel gets to complain to US middle-management.

        Odd that no press reports highlight those backhanders.
        But you can bet that it was noticed in Israel, and in the Gulf States.

        Obama is going to peel away the Saudis and get them into his pocket (at which point, of course, he will also have France in his pocket, and that cuts off yet another avenue for Bibi-mischief).

        All Netanyahu will have left is the US Senate.

        And if Netanyahu can’t get 67 Senators then his objections are irrelevant.

        Netanyahu has already burnt all other bridges, and Obama has already in the process of cutting Bibi off from any other potential deal-breakers.

        It’s 67 Senators or Nothing, and Obama looks pretty confident that as far as the head-counting goes Netanyahu’s got…. nothin’

        Reply to Comment
    6. Richard Witty

      Agreed.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Larry Linn

      If the “agreement with Iran will spark a nuclear arms race among Sunni countries in the Middle East”, as Republican Leader Netanyahu states, how will no agreement stop it or slow it down?

      Reply to Comment
    8. Pedro X

      Derfner:

      “Obama, backed by just about every other world leader, has pledged to do whatever’s necessary to prevent Iran from building nukes.”

      Except:

      1. the framework does not explicitly require Iran to accept inspections of all installations where suspected nuclear weapons development has been conducted.

      2. the framework does not require Iran to disclose the full nature of its historical nuclear program and facilities.

      3. the framework does not provide for spot inspection of suspected nuclear facilities.

      4. the framework does not require the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program which can be used for making nuclear bombs. The framework does not even require that the assets used in the Iranian nuclear program be mothballed. None of Iran’s nuclear facilities will be shuttered. Iran retains its centrifuges including the right to operate 6,000 which is more than enough to produce material for a nuclear bomb. Iran does not have to give up its heavy water reactor. Fordow will continue to operate.

      4. under the framework Iran does not have to stop developing its nuclear research for creating a bomb. Iran does not have to stop its development of ballistic missiles or nuclear weaponization technology.

      5. Mohammad Javid Zarif contentedly reported. “Our facilities will continue. We will continue enriching; we will continue research and development; our heavy water reactor will be modernized, and we will continue the Fordow facility…”

      6. North Korea developed nuclear weapons under the watch of the United States and the international community under a program to prevent such a development.

      7. Iran retains not only the capacity to break out and build a nuclear bomb with a ballistic missile delivery system but to build it more quickly with technology which it has the right to pursue.

      8. Iran remains in Iraq, Syria, its proxy in Lebanon, it is fighting in Yemen. The American deal with Iran will be seen as an award for its bad behavior in the middle east.

      Reply to Comment

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