Here in Israel, the world sort of floats in limbo over the Pesach week; and so I thought that perhaps I would not post until the holiday was over. But life does go on, and I’ve decided to write.
But before I move to the serious matters calling for attention, let me share this lighthearted video for Pesach, done by the students of the Technion (a top notch university – Israel Institute of Technology) in Haifa, specifically for Pesach:
Then, moving on, and hoping your spirits have been lifted…
I’m seeing a huge number of commentaries regarding the Iran situation, and obviously cannot share any significant portion of them.
Actually, what I am finding most interesting is the way in which Obama is walking back several of his positions of last week. This is, of course, in response to severe criticism that has been directed at the framework agreement with Iran and at his hard-nosed attitude. I will come back to this.
Whatever my other disagreements and disappointments with Bibi Netanyahu, I continue to salute him for speaking out on the Iran issue. There are those (writing in some of those commentaries) who think he’s wasting his breath because no one is listening. I disagree. He has affected the dialogue on Iran and modeled a forthright approach.
Yesterday, Bibi asked some particularly pertinent questions (the deal is so full of holes there are always more questions):
“Why doesn’t the framework address Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile program whose sole purpose is to carry nuclear payloads?” (Emphasis added)
And…”What is to stop Iran from using the over one hundred billion dollars that will be unfrozen as part of this agreement to fund aggression and terror in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and elsewhere?”
Hmm…That first question is particularly pertinent, as Iran aims to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles that reach the US.
Joining Bibi in his forthright approach have been members of his government, such as Yuval Steinitz.
And I am pleased that Israel is is not alone in criticizing the agreement.
There are Arab nations highly critical of Obama, although their criticisms are less direct than Israel’s. See Khaled Abu Toameh’s piece on this:
“Arab leaders and heads of state were polite enough not to voice public criticism of the agreement when President Barack Obama phoned them to inform them about it. But this has not stopped Arab politicians, political analysts and columnists reflecting government thinking in the Arab world from lashing out at what they describe as ‘Obama’s bad and dangerous deal with Iran.’”
Most significantly, there are key members of Congress speaking out.
Right after the framework deal was announced, Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) blasted it in no uncertain terms (emphasis added):
”Neville Chamberlain got a lot of more out of Hitler than Wendy Sherman [State Department negotiator] got out of Iran,” he declared.
There’s nothing for Iranians to do but go at breakneck speed to a nuclear weapon. We’re moving straight to forcing Israel to clean up this mess … when the West does nothing, Israel over and over has done something….we shouldn’t force our best ally in the region to clean up the mess.”
A man who pulls no punches.
On April 14, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will be voting on the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which would require the Obama administration to submit the final nuclear deal with Iran to Congress for review and approval.
Committee Chair, Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said on Sunday that ”it’s very important that Congress is in the middle of this, understanding, teasing out, asking those important questions.”
Then on Monday, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell stated that:
“We cannot forget that Iran is pursuing a full-spectrum campaign to expand its sphere of influence in the greater Middle East.
“The administration needs to explain to the Congress and the American people why an interim agreement should result in reduced pressure on the world’s leading state sponsor of terror.”
It is a matter of certainty that Obama will veto this bill, and so 67 votes supporting it are needed to override that veto. Senator Corker has indicated that there are already 65 who will be voting in favor. Two more votes are necessary.
And so, please! contact your Senator without delay. If you are certain that he or she will be voting for this bill, offer thanks and express your understanding of how important this is. If you are in doubt as to whether your Senator will be supporting the bill, urge that he or she do so. Say it is a matter of critical importance, and that you will be watching.
Now, as to the Obama walkback: nothing is more astonishing (and disingenuous!) than his new, improved stance on Israel. In an interview with Tom Friedman on Sunday, he declared that:
“It’s been a hard period. It has been personally difficult for me to hear” accusations that “this administration has not done everything it could to look out for Israel’s interest…if anybody messes with Israel, America will be there.”
This is best read on an empty stomach. What would be personally difficult for most of us would be to swallow this self-serving drivel. But I imagine that, unfortunately, there are some who will buy it.
Obama now feels so kindly disposed to Bibi that he is planning on inviting him to the White House after the coalition is formed.
Yes, this is the same Obama who refused to see Bibi when he came to address the Congress.
Elliot Abrams, Former US Deputy National Security Adviser, has penned a potent response to Obama’s hot air assurances to Israel (emphasis added):
“Several times in this interview the President went out of his way to suggest that he fully understands Israel’s security problems, but the full text suggests that he does not–because he believes that his statements that ‘if anybody messes with Israel, America will be there’ and would ‘stand by them’ actually solve any of those problems…
“What does ‘messes with Israel’ mean? No one has the slightest idea. The President unfortunately uses this kind of diction too often, dumbing down his rhetoric for some reason and leaving listeners confused. Today, Iran is sending arms and money to Hamas in Gaza, and has done so for years. Is that ‘messing with Israel?…Iranian Revolutionary Guards, along with Hezbollah troops, are in southern Syria now near the Golan. Is that ‘messing with Israel?’ And what does the President mean by ‘America will be there?’ With arms? With bandages? With the diplomatic protection his administration is now considering removing at the United Nations?”
At some level, Bibi has little choice but to accept this new approach at face value – i.e., he will have to go to the White House. It falls to him to spin it so that it is of maximum utility to Israel – perhaps extracting certain military guarantees. Unfortunately, the “two state” solution is likely to be at the top of Obama’s agenda when they meet. (And in coming days I’ll have much to say about that issue, which never dies.)
One of the most convoluted statements that has been offered by Obama on the benefits of the deal is this, from an NPR interview:
It is, he said “a relevant fear” that “in year 13, 14, 15, [the Iranians] would have advanced centrifuges that enrich uranium fairly rapidly, and at that point the breakout times would have shrunk almost down to zero.
“Keep in mind, though, currently, the breakout times are only about two to three months by our intelligence estimates. So essentially we’re purchasing for 13, 14, 15 years assurances that the breakout is at least a year…that if they decide to break the deal, kick out all the inspectors, break the seals and go for a bomb, we’d have over a year to respond. And we have those assurances for at least well over a decade.
“And then in years 13 and 14, it is possible that those breakout times would have been much shorter, but at that point we have much better ideas about what it is that their program involves. We have much more insight into their capabilities. And the option of a future president to take action if in fact they try to obtain a nuclear weapon is undiminished.”
Immediate and vociferous criticism followed this statement: The president, went the charge, has now admitted that the deal would not stop Iran from every getting a nuclear weapon, as promised. It would simply make it perhaps a bit more difficult for some 15 years, after which breakout would be close to zero.
Spokespersons for the White House argued that the “zero breakout time” the president referred to was only if there was no deal.
Our prime minister certainly isn’t buying this. Iran’s post-deal breakout time will be zero, he says. And with good reason:
Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, has now announced that once a deal is signed at the end of June, and sanctions are lifted, Iran will move over to using its most advanced centrifuges.
These are the IR8 centrifuges, which enrich uranium 20 times faster than the current IR-1 models, meaning they would radically reduce the breakout time needed for Iran to obtain a nuclear arsenal. (Emphasis added)
Dear friends, digest this information carefully. Be very afraid of where this is leading, and very furious at the president of the US, who has the gall to promote his deal.
The good news here – if there is any good news on this – is that there really is no deal. Not yet. And so there’s time to stop what Obama would like to achieve.
Bret Stephens, writing in the WSJ, tells us that:
”what the president calls ‘this verifiable deal’ fails the first test of verification—mutual agreement and clarity as to what, exactly, is in it….
“The deal cannot be verified,” he says, as “there are significant discrepancies between the U.S. and the Iranian versions of the deal.”
According to Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism, the French have still another version.
Times of Israel editor David Horovitz writes, in “The unfolding farce of Obama’s deal with Iran” that:
”Time and again, President Barack Obama and his indefatigable secretary of state promised that they and their P5+1 negotiating partners would not sign a bad deal with Iran on its nuclear weapons program.
“And, lo, they were as good as their word. They didn’t sign a bad framework deal in Lausanne, Switzerland, last week. They just agreed on one in principle, and left it unsigned, allowing for multiple conflicting interpretations.” (Emphasis added)
Of course, it is Obama’s deepest hope that this unsigned agreement will go through in one version or another (likely the version most satisfactory to Iran – regardless of what the president has told his people and the world), and become a signed deal by the end of June.
But it is the responsibility of every individual who can see past the president’s hype to the dangers looming large, to do everything possible to make sure it does not become a signed deal.
In the US, the most important vehicle for blocking Obama is Congress – a Congress that must be informed by its constituency of its urgent concern.
But it is also important to inform those Americans who may be buying what they are told. Write letters to the editor and Internet talkbacks on this issue. Speak to people.
In Israel, we must pray that our government will have the strength to do whatever must be done.
Tomorrow night is holiday again – the seventh and in Israel the last day of Pesach. (Outside of Israel, there is an eighth day.)
I want to end here with one of my very favorite songs, which I have shared before: Yehi Sheamda.
This video features Yaakov Shwekey and Yonatan Razel, who wrote the vocal arrangement, at the piano.
The words. The words are straight out of the Pesach Haggadah:
And so it has stood for our fathers and for us, that it wasn’t just one nation alone that rose up against us to destroy us, and The Holy One, Blessed is He, saves us from their hand.
A song of faith and of hope. Appropriate for this Pesach season, and for this time of threats to the Jewish people. Our history is a story of miracles. Let it be so now.