Is it the turban? Does figurehead Hassan Rouhani remind Secretary of State Kerry of some friendly genie from a favorite childhood cartoon? When Iran’s supreme Muslim cleric calls Israel a rabid dog are we mistaking an inoffensive remark for malice? The U.S. has decided that we will negotiate over something that was non-negotiable before we adopted our new role in world affairs (see: Is America’s Role World Leader or Sucker?). That role includes seeking a deal from a state sponsor of terrorism that threatens one of our most trusted allies.
Does Obama’s new role for America leave room for backing Israel?
There was a time when backing Israel no matter what meant something to our government. It still does, but in a very different way. One moment Obama sounds like he means what he says:
Why does the United States stand so strongly, so firmly with the State of Israel? And the answer is simple. We stand together because we share a common story — patriots determined “to be a free people in our land,” pioneers who forged a nation, heroes who sacrificed to preserve our freedom, and immigrants from every corner of the world who renew constantly our diverse societies.¹
The next he says what he means:
And we stand together because peace must come to the Holy Land. For even as we are clear-eyed about the difficulty, we will never lose sight of the vision of an Israel at peace with its neighbors.²
It seems we not only need to convince Iran that Israel is not an old wound and a nation to be wiped off the face of the earth. Israel needs to be at peace, too. Do Iran’s statements about our ally sound like a misperception, something we can correct at the bargaining table by giving in to demands to lower sanctions? The State Department assures us America will get a good deal:
As Secretary Kerry has said, we’re not in a rush to make just any deal. We are working very hard to make sure we get a good deal. High Representative Ashton and the EU delegation have been meeting bilaterally today with Foreign Minister Zarif and the Iranian team to continue working to narrow gaps between the two sides.³
Does that deal include doing whatever it takes to back Israel after Iran reneges on its obligations and suddenly has its hands on the bomb? Adopting a position of weakness is probably not the best place to start, especially after a series of hideous foreign policy embarrassments like Egypt, Benghazi, and Syria. There was a time when America didn’t worry about getting a good deal. America’s role in the world was not to bargain for deals with countries like Iran.
Kerry forgets progress comes from his people’s movement.
If we believe John Kerry’s gibberish about a democratic people’s movement in the Arab Muslim world then sanctions are the only solution. An old argument against sanctions is that innocent people, not governments are punished. What better way to force change than making the lives of the people miserable? If our worst fears are confirmed and the people don’t turn out to be any better than their rulers, then we at least know where we stand. Instead, the Obama administration has decided to bring new meaning to the term Ugly American by ignoring Netanyahu’s warnings. Easy for the president to do. Iran is not lurking in his backyard.
Is America permitting threats against Israel as part of the bargain?
Politicians tend to be optimists unless they are talking about their opponents. It’s easy to paint a positive face on what is happening in Geneva, forget the realities of the region, and ignore the similarities between setting a precedent by kowtowing to Iran and what happened because nations ignored the signs before the Holocaust. We are permitting Israel to be threatened as part of the negotiating process. This might be in keeping with Obama’s preferred role for America in the world. That doesn’t mean we aren’t stabbing our long-time ally and friend squarely in the back.
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