Fact: only one nation among the UN members wishes to
eradicate another member state. That would be Iran wishing to wipe out Israel.
Now why one state is allowed membership in a club for peace when one of its
main stated goals is the elimination of another member of the club is beyond
me, but there it is. This puts Israel in an untenable existential crisis akin
to that of Groucho Marx. Groucho didn’t want to belong to any club that would
have him as a member. Israel doesn’t need to have low self-esteem to feel this
way. Iran is providing all the impetus needed for Israel to feel unwelcome in
the hall of nations.
It should come as no surprise that Israel would object to
any acquisition of atomic weapons by the Iranians who live not all that far
down the block from Tel Aviv. If the Gazans can deliver conventional weapons
that the Iron Dome has to shoot down, goodness knows what the Iranians can do
should they develop the capability of delivering nuclear weapons on missiles to
Israeli territory. Israel is the size of New Jersey. It wouldn’t take many such
weapons to end the Jewish state and that simply cannot be allowed to occur as
Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu made clear at AIPAC on Monday morning.
Prime Minister Netanyahu is also in a very tense struggle
for power with forces on his left and in the center of the Israeli political
spectrum. Israeli elections will be held in two weeks. Is the PM using the platform
given him my Speaker Boehner to secure votes in his own election? Of course he
is. Should he have been given such a platform? Probably not. Should Speaker Boehner
have informed the White House of his invitation out of courtesy (funny word in
DC)? Of course. Should Israel have done the same? Of course. Is anyone acting
like an adult here? Not really, but for those of you from MD Anderson seeking
adult behavior from leadership, you know better by now. Ain’t gonna happen.
Israel believes it is in an existential crisis with regard
to Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. The Prime Minister believes that he has no
choice if he is to retain power than to play these cards this way. We shall see
if he is wrong or right. My guess is he will deliver a stern warning to
Congress about the Iranian threat and the risk of inking a deal with the Iranians
that is too lax. He will have a constituency in America and one in Israel who
will be listening.
Without affirming or protesting the wisdom of all of this
bad diplomatic behavior, I have to admit I understand all sides and don’t have
a glib solution to the problem other than to hope that the US does not strike a
deal with Iran that compels a newly re-elected Bibi to take a giant step and
attempt a Menachem Begin-like move and bomb the nuclear facilities in Iran from
the air or even worse mount a ground attack which would surely be a catastrophe
given the length of the supply lines, the hostility of the intervening
territory, and the strength of the Iranian military guarding its homeland.
Let’s hope this is just a political Bibi step and not an
irrevocable move toward war in the Middle East or should I say, MORE war in the
Everyone needs to take a deep breath and consider the
consequences, intended and unintended, of his or her actions. Breaking the US
relationship with Israel along partisan lines is a poor idea as well (as Bibi
told AIPAC), but the White House’s inaction in the Middle East is also a cause
for concern as President Obama has been ineffective dealing with the Arab
Spring, Iraq, Syria, Libya, ISIS and Iran and even Turkey.
If it takes Bibi to step up, so be it. Obama and Kerry need
to either conclude a real deal with the ayatollahs that provides some security
to the region and a nuclear arms-free Iran or walk away knowing Iran will
restart its drive to atomic weaponry and the US must be prepared to join with
the Israelis to stop it.
That is reality, something with which this White House has
only an occasional connection. It needs to have that connection now for just as
the UT System leadership in Austin has refused to understand with whom it is
dealing in the current leaders of MD Anderson, the current POTUS and Secretary
of State still look at the world through the rose-colored glasses of a
community organizer and a Boston Brahmin. They are bringing a knife to a gunfight.
Bibi knows better. They should listen to the speech first and draw conclusions
later, but the Israeli PM has no illusions about the intent of the Iranians. He
does not have the mural dyslexia that seems to pervade the Obama White House
and will not be caught flat-footed as he makes the steps he thinks he needs to
make to avoid having to take a big step.
Israel’s future does indeed rest on the politics of the next
few weeks—in America and in Israel. Israel cannot count on the politics in Iran,
nor American assurances about those politics or weapons.
Reagan’s “trust, but verify” comes to mind, except in the case of Iran, even
the trust part is questionable and the US can gamble that away. Israel cannot.