This past Monday, at a joint press conference with President Peres, Secretary of State Kerry said, with regard to Iran:
“No option is off the table. No option will be taken off the table.
“And I confirm to you, Mr. President, that we will continue to seek a diplomatic solution. But our eyes are open, and we understand that the clock is moving. And no one will allow the diplomatic process to stand in the way of whatever choices need to be made to protect the world from yet another nuclear weapon in the wrong hands.”
I sighed, and thought then, as I think now, “I wish.” Great words. But I have not the remotest reason to trust them.
The diplomacy won’t work because the Western powers are operating with all carrot and no stick. The Iranians don’t believe any more than I do that Obama will resort to “whatever choices need to be made.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu has warned for some time that, if the Western powers persist in their path of diplomacy, the only way to possibly make it succeed is if the carrot is accompanied by a very large stick: There must be a credible threat of military action if diplomacy does not succeed. Kerry’s words are not credible, any more than Obama’s have been.
Netanyahu’s position has been, further, that there must be a time line for declaring diplomacy at an end. It is pointless to allow negotiations to go on and on and on, while at the same time stating that if they don’t work other methods will have to be employed.
In the broadest sense, this is what his “red line” concept is about. It establishes a firm and public limit to negotiations — putting the Iranians on notice.
In September 2012, Netanyahu gave a talk at the UN General Assembly in which he advanced the “red line” policy.
It is not sufficient, he maintained, to attempt to stop Iran after there has been high level enrichment of uranium adequate for making a bomb, so that all that remains is attaching it to a trigger or delivery device. The Iranians have to be stopped before there is enrichment of uranium at the highest level. They have completed lowest level enrichment. They are now working on the second stage, and when they complete this, they will be 90% of the way to the bomb:
“Iran is…well into the second stage. By next summer (i.e., summer 2013), at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage. From there it is only a few more weeks before they have enriched enough for a bomb.”
Netanyahu advocated drawing a red line at the end of the second stage.
“I believe that faced with a clear red line, Iran will back down – and it will give more time for sanctions and diplomacy.”
You can see his full speech here (or start at 20 minutes for the part about the red line):
(An important clarification: These percentages represent how close Iran is to being able to make a bomb in terms of time, they are not the enrichment percentages, i.e., the percentage of U 235 isotopes. The first stage is uranium enriched to 5%. The second stage is 20% enrichment. And the third stage, which is weapons grade, is 90% enrichment. Netanyahu’s point was that the early stage takes a long time to reach and the last stage can be achieved quickly.)
The prime minister utilized a visual aid at the UN — a simple chart showing where the red line should be drawn:
Some mocked this as silly. But it turns out that it was anything but silly.
I call your attention to a fairly remarkable editorial from the Washington Post on April 9, entitled, “Iran heeds Israel’s warning of uranium ‘red line'” (emphasis added):
“…the Israeli leader’s explicit setting of a ‘red line’ for the Iranian nuclear program in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly in September appears to have accomplished what neither negotiations nor sanctions have yielded: concrete Iranian action to limit enrichment.
“A host of commentators both in the United States and Israel scoffed at what they called Mr. Netanyahu’s ‘cartoonish’ picture of a bomb and the line he drew across it…
“Iran, too, dismissed what its U.N. ambassador called ‘an unfounded and imaginary graph.’ But then a funny thing happened: The regime began diverting more of its stockpile to the manufacture of fuel plates for a research reactor. According to the most recent report of international inspectors, in February, it had converted 40 percent of its 20 percent uranium to fuel assemblies or the oxide form needed to produce them. As a result, Iran has remained distinctly below the Israeli red line, and it probably postponed the earliest moment when it could cross that line by several months.
Mr. Netanyahu’s red line is only a partial and temporary check on the Iranian threat. The ongoing installation of a new generation of faster centrifuges could soon make it obsolete by providing a new means for Iran to quickly produce bomb-grade uranium. But the lesson here is twofold: The credible threat of military action has to be part of any strategy for preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon, and clear red lines can help create the ‘time and space for diplomacy’ that President Obama seeks. Mr. Obama, who last year stiffly resisted pressure from Mr. Netanyahu to spell out U.S. red lines, ought to reconsider.”
I advise every American to take this seriously. Contact your elected representatives in Congress and demand a change in US policy towards Iran that incorporates “red lines” and a credible military threat.
For your Congresspersons:
For your Senators:
Last month, speaking to the UK Zionist Federation in London, Efraim Halevy, former head of the Mossad, said: Iran is “dead scared of Israel.” (Emphasis added)
I hope the irony of this situation escapes no one.
On Tuesday, according to Iranian state TV, Iran launched a new uranium production facility and began operating in two extraction mines, in Saghand in central Iran.
When PM Netanyahu offered his apology to Turkey, ill-advised in the opinion of many, Turkish PM Erdogan declared himself fully satisfied: An apology, rather than simply an expression of regret, is what they had been waiting for, he said. As arrangements were publicized, it was understood that the Turks were to cease prosecution of Israeli military leaders and Israel was to pay some as-yet-undetermined amount of compensation for those killed and injured in the Mavi Marmara. Ya’akov Amidror, head of the National Security Council, made it very clear that lifting of the naval blockade of Gaza was not part of the deal.
This week, we’ve been seeing cracks in the agreement.
Musa Cogas, who was wounded in confrontation with the Israeli commandos on the Mavi Marmara, declared:
“We will continue with the criminal lawsuits we have opened against the Israeli soldiers and commanders, and we won’t accept dropping this suit if compensation is paid, It’s not possible to heal my wounds with just an apology. Unless these soldiers are punished and the blockade is lifted…, we won’t accept compensation.”
Ahmet Varol, a journalist who had also been on board, said:
“Our efforts are for the full lifting of the blockade. Nobody wants compensation, and while an apology may have diplomatic meaning, it means nothing to the victims.”
You can be certain that these “glitches” in the agreement are sanctioned at official levels in Turkey.
Among those in Israel who thinks the apology was a good thing is Amos Gilad, head of the diplomatic-security bureau at the Defense Ministry. The reconciliation effort, he said in a YNet interview, was constructive even if incomplete. First, because “Turkey has been enemies with Iran or Persia for 1,000 years…Turkey is not ready for Iran to go nuclear,”
And then because it stopped deterioration of relations between the two countries and averted crises about which the public has no knowledge, “on the level of the air force and navy.”
Assessing this is near impossible.
The good news for today:
Senior Israeli government officials who were present during talks between Kerry and Netanyahu are saying that there will be no “confidence building measures.”
According to an unnamed source:
“…preliminary demands presented by the Palestinians attest to the fact that they are peace refusniks. We on the other hand are not presenting any pre-conditions…
“There will be no response to any demand where the purpose is to…appease the Palestinians and make them come to the table.
“Ministers are unanimous [on] the decision of not giving in to any pre-condition. They present conditions in order to make the process of renewing direct talks difficult. There will be no gestures, especially not land withdrawals.”
“We don’t have any pre-conditions but the Palestinians prepared a list with [demands] like a building freeze, releasing prisoners, and border deliberations before everything [begins]. We are ready to discuss everything, but only within the framework of direct talks, where we will demand recognition of the Jewish State and declaration of the end of the conflict.”
My response to this is a prayer that this source speaks for officialdom and that it will hold. That the Cabinet is unanimous on this is promising indeed. This is what will keep Netanyahu strong.
Kerry, as I’ve mentioned, is promoting economic initiatives to spur the PA in a more positive direction (the US has been there, done that, but never mind). The Israeli source cited above says: You want cellular antennas? No problem. You want a sewage treatment facility? Can do.”
What is unsettling here is that according to this same article:
“Netanyahu and Kerry have already discussed economic measures that Israel will offer to the Palestinian Authority, even in Area C.”
THAT rings alarm bells. Not an official turning over of parts of Area C to the PA, as Abbas had demanded, but a more subtle de facto recognition that Palestinian Arabs can develop economically in an area controlled by Israel. This is something, it should be noted, that the EU has already been promoting.
A postscript on the issue of Cardozo Law School and the honoring of Jimmy Carter. My understanding of the situation has sharpened as I’ve spoken with people in the know about this institution:
While it is nominally part of Yeshiva University, Cardozo works hard to maintain a high degree of autonomy, and a public image of being autonomous. Thus, the ability — or readiness — of YU administrators to influence what transpires at the Law School is questionable. However, what the YU administrators could have done, and did not do adequately in my opinion and the opinion of many others, is to publicly disassociate themselves from what was going to transpire. To say that it was not in their hands to change the situation, but had it been they would have. That it was not an acceptable situation for them. Out and out, that Jimmy Carter is anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.
To my mind, the talk about academic freedom — which came from YU — was an inadequate rationalization. Had Carter been invited to address the law students of Cardozo, that might have applied. But to confer an award upon him is something beyond and I think the distinction should have been kept clear.
Lastly, there is a reason why Cardozo maintains a distance from Yeshiva University: In good part it is to appear less “parochial,” and thus to attract a broader-based and more diverse population of students (as well as donors, etc). It is natural to think of the students of Cardozo as YU graduate students, cut from the same cloth as YU undergraduate students. But this is not the case.
In fact, the bottom line is that the students at Cardozo who made the decision on Carter for the most part are likely non-Jews and some percentage of more secular Jews. This does not mean that they should not have sensitivity to issues of Carter’s anti-Israel and anti-Jewish stands. Not at all. But it does, somehow, mitigate the great distress of imagining religious Jewish law students oblivious to the pernicious influence of Carter’s positions and, even more, supporting him. Those students, whatever their ideological bent, require some education — introduction to some basic facts.