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Israel United Against Iran Deal, So Should Those Who Claim to Be Its Friends

This morning during a Senate hearing on the Iran nuclear deal, Secretary of State John Kerry tried to pour cold water on the notion that friends of Israel are obligated to oppose the pact. Citing a Washington Post op-ed titled “How the Iran deal is good for Israel, according to Israelis who know what they’re talking about,” Kerry treated the piece that cites the opinions of a few retired officials that agree with him as proof that his claim that the result of his two years of negotiating with Iran would benefit the Jewish state as well as the United States. A similar piece in the Forward by J.J. Goldberg quotes some of the same figures. Taken together, they seem to make a strong case that the pro-Israel community ought to either sit out the Iran deal fight in Congress or even support the agreement. But the two articles leave out a couple of important facts about Israeli opinion about the Iran deal. One is that most of those quoted are either disgruntled former officials who hold a grudge against Prime Minister Netanyahu for not keeping them in office, or ideological opponents of the man who has won three consecutive elections. The other is that while Netanyahu’s political foes in the Knesset are as sharply critical of the prime minister as the Obama administration, they have joined him in forming a united front against the Iran deal as a deadly threat to the country’s future. That’s a point that any American that claims to be a friend of Israel needs to consider before they consider backing the administration’s push for détente with the Islamist regime.

As Jeffrey Goldberg, who has been the administration’s unofficial mouthpiece on Israel issues and their dutiful amanuensis when it comes to smears of Netanyahu, noted in The Atlantic last week, the man that Washington desperately wanted to win the Knesset election in March has turned on Obama. Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog was the darling of the White House earlier this year as the administration moved heaven and Earth in a failed attempt to influence the Israeli electorate to reject Netanyahu’s bid for a third straight term as prime minister. As Goldberg wrote, Herzog’s line on the Iran negotiations last winter was that he trusted Obama to get a “good deal” with Tehran. But rather than continuing his effort to cozy up to the administration, Herzog now completely agrees with Netanyahu’s evaluation of the deal. As Goldberg wrote:

In a telephone call with me late last night, Herzog’s message was very different. The deal just finalized in Vienna, he said, “will unleash a lion from the cage, it will have a direct influence over the balance of power in our region, it’s going to affect our borders, and it will affect the safety of my children.”

Iran, he said, is an “empire of evil and hate that spreads terror across the region,” adding that, under the terms of the deal, Iran “will become a nuclear-threshold state in a decade or so.” Iran will take its post-sanctions windfall, he said, and use the funds to supply more rockets to Hezbollah in Lebanon, more ammunition to Hamas in Gaza, and “generally increase the worst type of activities that they’ve been doing.”

The other major figure in the Israeli opposition, Yair Lapid, the leader of the Yesh Atid Party has also chimed in with harsh criticism of the agreement with Iran. In fact, the administration has achieved something that is generally considered impossible: uniting the Zionist parties of the Knesset from right to left. Netanyahu, Lapid, and Herzog and the leaders of the other parties normally can’t agree on anything. But Obama and Kerry have brought them together to denounce a deal that all know makes their region more dangerous while also presenting an existential threat to Israel’s future.

As I noted earlier this week, there is nothing in the deal that will prevent Iran from using the vast windfall it gets from sanctions relief to help fund its terrorist auxiliaries and allies that face off against Israel. Both Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza can expect to get a share of the flood of cash that President Obama is allowing Tehran. Kerry’s claims that such transfers won’t be allowed are absurd since even National Security Director Rice conceded, it will be their money.

Nor is anyone of stature in Israel’s political establishment on either side of the left-right divide buying the idea that the loose restrictions that will soon expire can do anything to stop an Iranian bomb. Like American critics of the Iran deal, they consider the administration’s arguments that there are no alternatives to their appeasement policy short of war to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Having discarded all the enormous political and economic leverage it held over Iran in 2013, it is disingenuous, if not completely dishonest of Obama and Kerry to say that theirs is the best option. Having effectively spiked a the chances that tougher sanctions would bring Iran to its knees when they began bowing to Iranian dictates in the talks, their current claim that opponents are warmongers has no credibility.

Some Israelis, Lapid in particular, do criticize Netanyahu for his strident opposition to Obama’s Iran strategy over the last two years. Seeking to make political hay out of this catastrophe for Israel, they argue that if Netanyahu had been nicer to Obama or at least not criticized him publicly, the U.S. might not have signed such a horrible deal.

This is nonsense. Netanyahu may have made some tactical mistakes in the last few months, in particular his decision to address Congress in March. He gave a great speech but it did nothing to stop Obama and even served the administration’s interests by diverting attention away from their policies and allowing Democrats to rally ’round their “insulted” president. But President Obama has been determined to create a new détente with the Islamist regime since the day he entered office. In doing so, he has discarded every other U.S. interest in the talks including the need to stop Iranian support for terrorism, its anti-Semitism, its determination to destroy Israel, its quest for regional hegemony and its ballistic missile program, in order to get a deal at any price. Netanyahu had no chance to alter Obama’s course.

But Israel’s rare political unity on the issue should influence Americans who care about the Jewish state. If Netanyahu, Herzog and Lapid all agree that the deal is terrible, no member of the Congress or the Senate who wishes to present themselves as friends of Israel should be allowed to get away with claiming that he knows better than these leaders, no matter how many disgruntled retired Israeli spooks can be assembled to contradict them.

Efforts by the administration’s left-wing allies to undermine the unity of the pro-Israel community should be dismissed out of hand. The deal is a clear and present danger to Israel’s future and should be treated as a litmus test of backing for Israel as well as reliability on U.S. security. All members of the House and Senate — especially those, like Senator Chuck Schumer that have staked their reputations as being guardians of Israel’s security — should be put on notice that they must choose between loyalty to Obama and what is right.


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16 Responses to “Israel United Against Iran Deal, So Should Those Who Claim to Be Its Friends”

  1. JACK LEVEY says:

    Tactical mistake? Netanyahu’s tone and substance were diplomatic, respectful, and devastatingly clear.

    • LAURA FINSTEN says:

      It’s not as if it altered the outcome of the negotiations, either. Nothing Netanyahu (or anyone else) could have said would have derailed Kerry and Obama from this course, IMO.

      • RAYMOND MARSHALL says:

        It’s called focus.

      • RAYMOND MARSHALL says:


        IT FOLLOWS

      • RAYMOND MARSHALL says:

        sidney51 • 3 days ago
        EXTREMELY important article, Mr. Goldberg. Todah rabah rabah. Although they probably won’t need my assistance, I will make sure that Members of Congress see it.

        A few elaborations and additional points, if I might.
        1) It should be highly noted that the Chief of Staff of the IDF, that is the CURRENT (as opposed to “mothballed”) Chief of Staff gave a speech to a prestigious international forum not long ago. His topic was: “The Threats to Israel”. In his entire speech, in everything he listed as existential threats to Israel, HE DID NOT EVEN MENTION THE WORD “IRAN”! Did I mention that it was the CURRENT Chief of Staff of the IDF who gave the speech?

        2) It should also be pointed out that Efraim Halevy was appointed to his position as head of the Mossad BY NETANYAHU! (Mr. Halevy, by the way, came up with the most accurate observation of all: “Netanyahu is a greater threat to Israel than Iran!”)

      • RAYMOND MARSHALL says:

        There is, of course, no last word. Contingency is always bearing down. But I was wondering when I first saw this headline: Who are Israel’s friends other than the United States? Then I reread Tobin’s op-ed piece and realized the he could refer only to Israel’s American friends, for there were no other countries, not even South Africa any more far as I can tell–maybe North Korea–but I’m not sure, the outlaw countries like South Africa once. Plenty of countries are very ready to do business with Israeli businesses thus the spectacular success Israel could have, but only the U.S. is willing to be put on the rack with that stiff necked people who so troubled Yahweh. Who else could tolerate such friends as Israel pretends to be? An ally, Israel is not. Someone of the sad commenters at Commenters at Commentary told me the 300 billion or so dollars or so the U.S. poured into Israel was justified by the targets the Mossad gave the U.S. for ISIS. One, ISIS was a creation of Bremmer, Dan Senor, and George W. Bush and their absurd invasion of Iraq urged on by Israel (as if they needed advice to be fools) and their firing of the Iraqi army and police. Two, such targeting is hardly worth three hundred billion dollars (and yes, I am counting the money to keep Egypt off Israel’s back for the last 35 years). Three, Israel has spent a fortune violating America’s principles regarding building settlements on the West Bank (121 at last count housing no less than 460,000 Israelis, not to mention the access highways and the huge walls) while the U.S. was spending about half their defense costs. Four, the American assistance in building the Iron Dome and U.S. intelligence ignoring all the while Israeli espionage on the U.S., an attack on an American ship that was murderous in intent and disgusting in the way it was handled, and much more to come that the U.S. has buried so as not to outrage the American people and turn them against Israel as the government so easily could do if it so chose. Try it if you want to see how fast the American people could turn. Lets get the crewman of the Liberty out on network television, a few top espionage people out on Pollard telling just what secrets he was stealing and what Israel did with those secrets and how it lied and paid and lied some more, and how Israel lied about its own nuclear weapons program while it tortured its own whistleblower, plays innocent with Iran, and lets blow up the pictures and broadcast them of Israeli soldiers breaking the arms and killing the children of Palestinians and broadcast Israeli crowds shouting out their hatred of Arabs so it is clear how two sided this hatred is. And lets not let it stop. You want to see what television cameras can do when they tell the truth? That wouldn’t be propaganda you know: That would be truth telling. Push it some more. Keep pushing. The footage is all there ready to run. Let’s see how Israel does with no friends in the world? I’m not talking about individual Americans. I’m talking about the American people. Netanyahu is a fool. Hubris you know. Hubris.

  2. ELLIOTT GREEN says:

    I read the WAPO op ed cited above. Those Israelis quoted were pretty predictable. Ami Ayalon is part of some outfit for “Peace and Security.” Dagan was not renewed as an intel chief. HaLevi is an old failure from way back [I am sure that he did not always fail but had too narrow a conception of things]. Yadlin was a Labor Party/Herzog supporter in the election campaign. Moreover, in order to get Yadlin’s support for the current deal, the WAPO author Ishaan Tharoor goes back to April for suitable quotes. In April Yadlin could not have known what exactly would be in the final deal.

  3. GUNTER HILLER says:

    It’s déjà vu 1938 all over again.


      There are other dates besides 1938. You might want to study a bit more history. History does not in fact repeat itself. No situation is ever the same. Think about it.


    Is this outrage enough for American Jews to break ranks with the Democratic Party?


      The unfortunate ans. is no. The democrats have no higher level of support than to toe the party line

      • RAYMOND MARSHALL says:

        My God men, have you not noticed the hard core discipline used by the Republicans to run their party: One step out of line and you lose your chairmanship or whatever position you wish you had. And forget about party support in your next campaign: You are most likely to be primaried, as they say. And imagine the public pressure in the gerrymandered districts where everyone you meet is a Republican. If you think Republicans aren’t party line obsessed, you are blind. Look at Fox and its massive turnout of people who vote systematically against their own interest. As for Democrats, what do you know of them. You insult Jews and Democrats as ditto heads, but the last I heard ditto heads came from another side of the ever so convenient and way oversimplified political divide.Enjoy your insults here among within your private circle of think alike non-thinkers.


      Good question but unfortunely many American Jews are brainwashed liberals

      • RAYMOND MARSHALL says:

        And Linda, do you always find it so easy to insult your fellow Jews as brainwashed, and how are you so sure that you are not the brainwashed one?


    Let’s just make Israel the 51st state, since it wants to be written into the Constitution, and we may as well write in Kurdistan while were at it so as to guarantee their sense of confidence that the U.S. will stand by them. Of course Judaism and Islam as the state religions will have to go by the boards, but if you want to act as a part of the U.S. I guess compromise is in order. So Netanyahu should make an application for statehood if he wants to make demands on the U.S. And with the love the U.S. has for Israel they will welcome you right in. Come on in. Those Christian Zionists are dying to get their hands on you. And once they are in, Israel is guaranteed safe. And can you imagine the joy in the streets as the our two countries are finally united?

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