Kerry and Bibi.
(photo credit: Reuters)
US Secretary of State John Kerry has taken several not-so-subtle wipes in swift
succession at Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in recent days. Among others, he
said that Netanyahu has no right to criticize the negotiations with Iran, as he
doesn’t know enough about the details of the proposals discussed.
not sure that the prime minister, whom I have a lot of respect for, knows what
the conditions were, because we had not yet agreed on them,” Kerry asserted in
an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press last Sunday. “That is what we are
Netanyahu’s rebuttal was prompt: “I am up to date on the
details of the proposal for the Iranians, and what is proposed at the moment is
a deal in which Iran does not regress in its nuclear capabilities, and as
opposed to that – the sanctions are taken back. It is a bad and dangerous deal
and it will not happen on my watch. You know what happened when the Jews were
But how much Netanyahu actually knows or doesn’t, is only one
aspect of the matter – and not necessarily the central one.
lost in this verbal ping-pong between Washington and Jerusalem is the fact that
Israel is the country most deeply and directly affected by his overtures to
It would take extraordinary obfuscation and/or self-delusion to
deny that Israel is exceptionally endangered by Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Even
the International Atomic Energy Agency doesn’t buy the Iranian cover-story about
a totally civilian nuclear program. Iran’s Ayatollahs, and the various heads of
government they installed in Tehran, have all proclaimed their desire to wipe
Israel off the map. That would mean that Israel has the most to lose from the
American gamble that Kerry is currently engaged in. For Israel this isn’t just
another expedient gambit. Israel’s very existence, in the most literal of
senses, is on the line.
With that in mind, the very notion of keeping
Israel out of the loop is a flawed strategy on the part of the US and Kerry. And
it’s a troubling one as well, of not fully informing the head of government of
the state most at risk in this context. Is this really the way for the top
diplomat of the world’s only superpower to conduct business, especially
vis-à-vis an unshakably steadfast ally like Israel? Is it right to keep in the
dark a fellow democracy – and an embattled one at that, whose very survival is
at stake? Even if we give Kerry abundant benefit of the doubt and agree to
assume that he had misspoken in his NBC appearance and on previous occasions
when he similarly expressed himself, on Monday he honed the message further at a
press conference he held in Abu Dhabi, where he stressed that “Netanyahu has to
understand that no agreement was signed between Iran and the world powers and
his adamant objections are premature.”
Implicit in this pronouncement,
Israel is not entitled to voice any reservations and misgivings about whatever
transaction is being negotiated in Geneva until it is a done deal or, in the
language spoken locally, a fait accompli. Surely Kerry must realize that by then
– by the time exceedingly vulnerable Israel is faced with a fait accompli – it
would be too late to preempt or mitigate the ill-effects of any agreement, even
if it’s very bad, even if it’s the worst possible.
Kerry has stated that
the US is neither “blind” nor “stupid” in its negotiations with the regime in
It’s hopeful that any agreement reached would reflect that and
continue the effort to shackle Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But hope and reality
are often two different things.
The US is Israel’s greatest ally, but in
the case of Iran, the best intentions can be fraught with danger.
would certainly put Israelis more at ease if Jerusalem was an active and full
partner with the US in the decision-making process. Our lives may depend on it.