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
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.
Netanyahu should loosen up a little, according to these Labor and Meretz
politicians, instead of spoiling the atmosphere of peace and
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.
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.
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
Rather, it is the West – particularly the US – that
is scaring these men into misbehaving and adopting an intransigent
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.
conveniently ignores the Iranian strategy revealed by President Hassan Rouhani
in a July 2005 interview when he was the Khatami government’s chief nuclear
“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.
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.
spoil the party.
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