US President Barack Obama recently invited me to the Oval Office for a
discussion about Iran.
The president reiterated to me in private what he
had previously said in public: namely, that he would not allow Iran to develop
nuclear weapons; that containment of a nuclear Iran was not an option; that
sanctions and diplomatic pressures would be applied and increased first; but
that, as a last recourse, the military option would not be taken off the
What the president said is now the official American policy with
regard to the threat of a nuclear Iran.
It is clear that sanctions and
diplomacy alone will not convince the Iranian mullahs to halt their progress
toward their goal of an Iran with nuclear weapons.
The only realistic
possibility of persuading the Iranians to give up their nuclear ambitions is for
them to believe that there is a credible threat of an American military attack
on their nuclear facilities.
Unless this threat is credible, the Iranians
will persist. And if the Iranians persist, and the Israelis do not believe that
the American threat is credible, the Israelis will undertake a military strike
against Iranian nuclear facilities.
It is crucial, therefore, for
America’s military threat to be credible and to be perceived as credible by both
the Israelis and the Iranians.
Enter J Street.
J Street is a lobby
in Washington that advertises itself as “pro-Israel and propeace.”
its policy with regard to Iran is neither pro-Israel nor pro-peace. It is
categorically opposed to any “military strike against Iran.” It is also opposed
to maintaining any credible military threat against Iran, through “legislation,
authorizing, encouraging or in other ways laying the ground work for the use of
military force against Iran.”
This is according to its official policy
statement that can be read at http://jstreet.org/policy/policy-positions/
The lobby favors sanctions and it recognizes that “Iran obtaining
nuclear weapons would pose a very serious threat to America and Israeli
But it believe that diplomacy and sanctions alone can deter
Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
By advocating this path, it is
totally undercutting the policy of the Obama administration. It is sending a
message to both Iran and Israel that there is no credible military threat, and
that if Iran is prepared to withstand sanctions and diplomacy, it will have
nothing further to worry about if it moves forward with its nuclear weapons
The Obama administration has tried very hard to persuade Israel
that there is no space between the American position and the Israeli position on
Iran. Whether or not this is true, there is a hole the size of a nuclear crater
between Israel’s position, reflecting a widespread consensus within that
country, and J Street’s position.
Virtually every Israeli wants the
United States to keep the military option on the table. This includes “doves”
such as President Shimon Peres. Former United States president Bill Clinton also
believes that the military option must be maintained.
Israelis and Americans alike, hopes that the military option will never have to
be exercised. But the best way to make sure that it will not have to be
exercised is to keep it credible.
As George Washington put it in his
second inaugural speech: “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective
means of preserving peace.”
J Street, in addition to undercutting
mainstream Israeli and American policy toward Iran, has also mischaracterized
the views of those it cites in support of its benighted position. It cites
former Mossad chiefs Meir Dagan and Efraim Halevy as opposing any “military
strike against Iran.” It cites these two Israeli security experts in the context
of opposing an American strike and an American threat to strike.
Dagan has explicitly stated that he would favor keeping the American military
option on the table. This is what he has said: “The military option must always
be on the table, with regards to Iran, but it must always be a last
This is quite different from the misleading manner in which J
Street has characterized his views.
The same is true of Halevy. When I
read the J Street reference to Halevy, I immediately called him and told him how
J Street had characterized his views and asked him if that was a correct
His response: “That’s absolutely false.”
me that he had repeatedly stated that the United States must keep the military
option on the table as a last resort, though he hoped that it would never have
to be used.
J Street can no longer pretend to be pro-Israel, since it is
actively seeking to undercut a joint Israeli and American policy designed to
protect Israel and the world from a nuclear armed Iran.
Nor can J Street
claim to be pro-peace, since its policy will likely encourage Iran to take
actions that will inevitably result in an attack either by Israel, the United
States or both. Finally, it cannot be trusted to tell the truth, as evidenced by
its deliberate misattribution of its views to security experts that don’t share
Some people have accused J Street of carrying President Obama’s
water with regard to Israel and of having been “invented” to give the Obama
administration cover for taking tough policies with regard to Israeli settlement
But in this instance, J Street is completely undercutting the
That would not be so bad except for the fact that the Obama
White House sometimes seems to be embracing J Street and its followers. This
public embrace sends a message to Iran that the Obama administration may not
mean it when it says that it will use military force if necessary to prevent a
nuclear armed Iran. This may be a false message, but it is a dangerous one
Absolutely no good has come from J Street’s soft policy on
Iran. Either J Street must change its policy, or truth in advertising requires
that it no longer proclaim itself a friend of Israel, a friend of peace, a
friend of truth, or a friend of the Obama administration.