…Not only does Netanyahu have the right to speak the truth in the face of misguided ideas and notions, he has a moral obligation, as leader of the Jewish state, to make this point as clear as possible in every international forum.
Quite a few politicians on the Left did not like the idea that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu played the party pooper during his speech before the UN General Assembly. While everyone else was excited about the potential for rapprochement with the mullahs of the Islamic Republic, Netanyahu was full of hard words. What a downer.
Instead of emphasizing Israel’s isolation, noted opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) during J Street’s conference in Washington, Netanyahu should “let the US lead an international effort.”
MK Isaac Herzog (Labor) said the prime minister failed to respond to what could be a “strategic chance” presented by Tehran. MK Nachman Shai (Labor) claimed Netanyahu was “fighting wars of the past while the world has moved on.”
And Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On said he should have praised the efforts of the US and the international community to dismantle Iran’s nuclear program via a diplomatic approach and sanctions.
In short, Netanyahu should loosen up a little, according to these Labor and Meretz politicians, instead of spoiling the atmosphere of peace and goodwill.
But perhaps he is on to something. After all, no despotic state, from Iraq and Syria to Libya, has ever given up its nuclear program without the introduction of military force either actual or threatened. In Iraq, for instance, Saddam Hussein insanely refused to come into compliance with UN resolutions, leading to US military intervention.
Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, fearing his country was next in line, promptly approached British prime minister Tony Blair and US president George W. Bush to hand over his arsenal of WMDs and fledgling nuclear program. Syria’s nuclear program, which Bush had hoped to stop through negotiations and sanctions – a process that likely would have dragged on for years – was thankfully snuffed out well before the present civil war broke, reportedly by Israel.
Nevertheless, it is still widely believed, and not just by Israeli politicians on the Left, that tyrannical regimes such as Iran’s would conduct themselves more peacefully if the US and other global powers would only adopt a more lenient strategy and show more awareness of the needs and fears that prompt dictators to go nuclear.
That, for instance, was the main argument made by Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in his 2011 book The Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times. ElBaradei repeatedly describes the nuclear infractions of North Korea, Iran, Libya and other nations and then insinuates that the US should be blamed for them.
In this telling, the problem is not that belligerent despots such as Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or Kim Jong Il or Basher Assad or Gaddafi seek nuclear weapons as a bulwark against domestic and foreign pressures for change and as a means of increasing their regional influence.
Rather, it is the West – particularly the US – that is scaring these men into misbehaving and adopting an intransigent position.
ElBaradei insists, for instance, that Tehran would significantly constrain nuclear activities that could be used for military purposes if only Washington would take “yes” for an answer.
He conveniently ignores the Iranian strategy revealed by President Hassan Rouhani in a July 2005 interview when he was the Khatami government’s chief nuclear negotiator.
“Wherever we accepted suspension” of a nuclear activity, “we thought about another activity,” Rouhani declared.
For example, when Tehran suspended work on uranium enrichment at Natanz, it “put all of [its] efforts” into uranium conversion at Isfahan.
Not only does Netanyahu have the right to speak the truth in the face of misguided ideas and notions, he has a moral obligation, as leader of the Jewish state, to make this point as clear as possible in every international forum, including the UN General Assembly, even if he ruins the mood of optimism. It is, after all, in large part thanks to Netanyahu’s ceaseless diplomatic work – including threats that Israel will act alone militarily if necessary – that the US has been motivated to assemble a broad coalition of nations to adopt crippling sanctions against Iran.
As the economic situation worsens due to these sanctions, Iran may soon face the gritty question of regime change. Only this combined with a real military threat will ultimately convince Iran to abandon its nuclear program.
Sorry to spoil the party.