Tamar Zandberg, Six Year Later and Iran still does not have a Bomb [ssba]

Tamar Zandberg, Six Year Later and Iran still does not have a Bomb

Tamar Zandberg posted on Facebook a response to Raviv Drucker’s Haartetz article asking “What Happened to the Iranian Bomb?” In the article Drucker argues that the entire political establishment adopted Netanyahu’s nightmare scenarios regarding Iran. But In Israel, when the doomsday prophecies fail to predict the future, nobody ever pays a price. “The doomsdayers,” as he calls them, “believe that there’s always some “long term” in which their prophecy will come true.” Read More »

Israel’s Unprecedented Geopolitical Strength [ssba]

Israel’s Unprecedented Geopolitical Strength

It may seem counterintuitive, or even downright strange, but Israel’s geopolitical position is probably stronger now than at any time in the country’s history. This is likely to continue at least in the short-to-medium term, but looming long-term challenges should give some pause to Israel’s current leaders. They should recall that even way back in the 1960s, then-Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol sardonically referred to Israel as “Shimshon der nebekhdiker,” or “poor little Samson.”

It is therefore rich with irony that it is undisputed among Republican presidential candidates that President Barack Obama has “thrown Israel under the bus,” while Hillary Clinton promises “no daylight” between the United States and Israel, instead of advocating policies that would strongly encourage Israel to ameliorate the Palestinians’ untenable situation.  Bernie Sanders, who once spent a year on a kibbutz as a young man, seems to prefer to avoid the issue entirely, which is perhaps a different kind of irony.

It is worth reviewing Israel’s markedly changed security situation since its establishment in 1948. At that time Israel considered itself in genuine existential danger from the Arab world, and with good reason. This danger lessened with its victory in the 1967 Six Day War, and the Jewish state’s safety from an Arab attack was largely sealed with its 1979 treaty with Egypt. However, a sense of insecurity still pervaded Israel once it became clear that peace with Egypt was not going to be followed by normalization with the rest of the region.  Read More »

The Iran-Saudi-US Balancing Act – and Israel: Something Must Give [ssba]

The Iran-Saudi-US Balancing Act – and Israel: Something Must Give

A slightly different version of this article was first published by the IPI Global Observatory

The first milestone in implementing the Iran nuclear deal has come and gone. As the agreement’s proponents expected and opponents denied would happen, Iran has poured cement in its Arak reactor and rendered it unusable. More unexpected was the prisoner exchange that accompanied it, with Iran releasing four Americans and the United States freeing seven Iranians. In addition, Iran captured and then quickly released a group of US Navy personnel whose boats had drifted into Iranian territorial waters—a fact that the US did not contest.

The reactions to these developments from opposing sides were predictable. Supporters of the deal—most world leaders and domestic supporters of US President Barack Obama—saw it as proof of the efficacy of diplomacy in general and the president’s policies in particular. Opponents of the deal—most Israelis and members of the US Republican party—saw it as a humiliating capitulation. All Republican candidates vying for nomination for this year’s presidential poll declared that things would be very different if they were in power. Read More »

Why the Iran Nuclear Deal Merits Support [ssba]

Why the Iran Nuclear Deal Merits Support

There was some delay in getting this published, but I’m grateful that it’s out there.  What follows is an abridged version of my op-ed , “Why We Need the Iran Nuclear Deal,” published in the September 24, 2015 issue of the Jewish Journal (Boston):                         

. . .  The final deal is stronger than expected. The critics keep talking about its 10-year timeframe but, in fact, most of its provisions are set in a 15-year timeframe or longer. The permitted number of centrifuges is relatively low. Though some feared that an effective “snap-back” process for sanctions was unattainable, the deal’s provisions actually stymie Iran or even Iran together with Russia and China from blocking reimposition of sanctions if Iran cheats.

A 15-year timeframe is being portrayed by some as inadequate.  . . .

Fifteen years is more than enough time for the pro-Western younger generation in Iran to take over or at least achieve considerable power in the society. It is more than enough time for Israeli and American technology to improve anti-missile defenses,  . . .

. . .  There is no stronger sanctions regime to be had. Rejection of this deal will bring about the collapse of sanctions, not their strengthening. The other alternative is military action against Iran. But U.S., Israeli and European experts agree that military action will set Iran back only 3-4 years.  . . . Read More »

Israelis from America Support Deal with Iran [ssba]

Israelis from America Support Deal with Iran

We, who grew up in America and chose to live in Israel, wish to express our support for the JCPOA. We believe that it offers the most realistic and pragmatic way to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons, and makes an important contribution to stability and security in the Middle East.
We agree with the support expressed by former Mossad Head Ephraim Halevy, former Dimona scientist Prof. Uzi Even and former General Security Services Head Ami Ayalon, who said that the deal is “the best possible alternative from Israel’s point of view, given the other available alternatives”.
As people who are raising families in Israel, many of whom have served in Israel’s wars and who share the risks of living here, we are appalled and offended by the vicious and uncalled for attacks against Congressman Nadler, the claim that he has “blood on his hands”, is a “Nazi collaborator”, etc. We believe that Congressman Nadler and the other supporters of the deal which has been negotiated with Iran are voting in the best interests of both the United States and Israel. And we are happy to see polls which indicate that the majority of American Jews support the agreement.
We know that there are other concerns connected to Iran’s aspirations and activities in the Middle East that still have to be dealt with, and are convinced that they will be, with a combination of determined and wise diplomacy, backed by military strength.
To conclude, as dual Israeli-American citizens, we want to express our thanks to President Obama, Secretary Kerry, Secretary Moniz, Undersecretary Sherman and the leaders of Russia, China, the UK, France and Germany for negotiating this agreement, which we believe is in the best interests of the Israeli people, and of all people living in the Middle East. Read More »

Dershowitz takes victory lap, but loses JCC Iran debate [ssba]

Dershowitz takes victory lap, but loses JCC Iran debate

Alan Dershowitz is a lifelong Democrat who sees himself as very much a liberal.  Even in terms of Israel, he touts his professed support for a two-state solution with the Palestinians and contends that expanding West Bank settlements are a bad idea.  He has suffered for this with insults and heckling at predominantly right-wing gatherings, such as organized by the Jerusalem Post in New York, two years ago. 

Although his arguments did not prevail, his overlarge ego dominated his debate with Peter Beinart at the Manhattan JCC, Sept. 3, on the Iran nuclear agreement.  Beinart listened in some astonishment and chagrin as Dershowitz invented his own facts in attacking the Iran deal.  By way of contrast, I’ve never heard Beinart argue more fluently and confidently. 

Their major point of contention was in how thorough and prolonged are the agreement’s provisions to safeguard against an Iranian bomb.  Dershowitz tends to argue by selectively quoting (or misquoting) Pres. Obama to the effect that it’s only a ten-year deal, rather than 15 to 25, with Iran’s commitment to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty binding it “in perpetuity,” as Beinart contends.  Read More »

Unpacking Bibi’s Iran Deal Strategy [ssba]

Unpacking Bibi’s Iran Deal Strategy

For some of us the period since July 14, when the nuclear agreement with Iran was announced, has been immensely hectic. I and many of my friends have been reading, commenting, publicizing petitions to Congress, and generally doing our best to get the word out that most American Jews do not oppose the deal and that many (most, according to some reliable polls) support it. Some of us think that the deal is a triumph of diplomacy; others think there is simply no alternative. Obviously, lobbying has been intense and increasingly bitter on both sides.

As I write this on Saturday night, Sept. 5, it looks like the deal will pass, since more than 34 senators (all Democrats) have said they support it. Perhaps we will reach 41 senatorial supporters, which would prevent the Senate from disapproving it, and thus avoid a certain veto by President Obama. Republicans have vowed to do their best to prevent it from going into effect, and hope that if they win the presidency next year, the next president will annul US approval, as he or she will have the right to do.

This may be a good time to examine why Prime Minister Netanyahu broke all diplomatic precedents by actively opposing an American president on a major American debate, especially when it was probable that Obama would win. This question of “why?” has become a cottage industry in Israel, where even many who oppose the deal have condemned Bibi’s heavy-handed strategy as calculated to seriously alienate the United States, Israel’s primary ally. We who support the deal should keep in mind that we only won this round – assuming we did – because the congressional deck was for once stacked for us; constitutionally we only needed 1/3 of one house of Congress. The fact is that Bibi’s and the Republicans’ arguments – which are essentially the same – seem to resonate with about half the American people. Of course Bibi knew he would most probably lose, whatever he was telling people. Everyone knew that the numbers were against him. Read More »

JLC Condemns Hate Speech in Iran Debate [ssba]

JLC Condemns Hate Speech in Iran Debate

As you may already know, the leadership of PPI supports the P5 + 1 nuclear agreement with Iran, which is currently under review by Congress.  At the same time, many of us are distressed by the level of invective being interjected into this debate.  President Obama has noted this in his recent interactions with representatives of the Jewish community (especially regarding the personal attacks aimed at Rep. Jerrold Nadler).

Our friends at the Jewish Labor Committee have issued this statement on exactly this concern:

Jewish Labor Committee Condemns Hate Speech against Members of Congress for Positions on Proposed Iran Nuclear Deal

September 1, 2015 – New York, NY: Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee, issued the following statement earlier today:

The Jewish Labor Committee condemns the recent spate of hate speech directed against members of the United States Congress because of their position on the pending Iran Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear program. Read More »

Gershom Gorenberg supports Iran deal [ssba]

Gershom Gorenberg supports Iran deal

In this column in the American Prospect, (“What a No Vote on the iran Deal Would Mean“), Gershom Gorenberg’s writes as an Israeli whose personal security and that of his family is on the line. He makes the observation that if he had remained in the Los Angeles area rather than making aliya to Israel over 40 years ago, Brad Sherman (pictured above) would be his representative in Congress.  His article’s sub-title: “To keep their seats safe, Chuck Schumer and Brad Sherman are willing to make Israel much less safe.”

This is the core of Gorenberg’s piece: Read More »

‘Ichabod’ Schumer [ssba]

‘Ichabod’ Schumer

For the last week or so, since New York Senator Chuck Schumer decided to abandon his party, his president, his principles (or at least what should have been his principles) and announced his decision to vote against the Iran agreement, I have been thinking about the poem “Ichabod” (1850) by the 19th century American poet, John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892). Nowadays Whittier is clinging to a tenuous place in the literary canon by his fingernails, but at his best he was quite a memorable poet, and one of his best poems is “Ichabod.”

Read More »