members of Congress meet with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Aug. 5, 2015. (photo by TWITTER/presidentruvi)
Summary⎙ Print Instead of adopting the assessment of several top security chiefs that the Iran deal is better than none, Zionist Camp leaders Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog have chosen to imitate the prime minister and deride the agreement in talks with Congressional Democrats visiting Israel
Leaders of the pro-Israel lobby group The American Israel Public Affairs Committee could go home from Jerusalem to Washington this week with a deep sense of satisfaction that the visit they had arranged for a delegation of congressional Democrats was worth every cent. The 22 representatives were told by Israel’s top leadership that a tremendous majority of the Jewish Israeli public believes the agreement with Iran is wrong in its essence. They noted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud, opposition leaders Isaac Herzog and former prime ministerial candidate Tzipi Livni, both from the Zionist Camp, all told the Americans in no uncertain terms that this is a bad agreement. Not a problematic agreement, not controversial nor insufficient — a bad agreement, unacceptable, dangerous..
Netanyahu dedicated over 90 minutes Aug. 9 to reviewing the weaknesses of the agreement for members of the delegation. His bottom line was, too, that this is a bad agreement.
After explaining to them at length why the agreement with Iran poses a grave threat to Israel’s security, if not to its very existence, Netanyahu was careful to tell the American politicians, with a veneer of political correctness, that it is not his place to tell them how to vote, and “It is up to you.” This is like saying, “Anyone who backs this agreement cannot be considered a friend of Israel, but, of course, you’re fully within your rights to vote in favor of Israel’s enemies. Who am I to interfere in US domestic affairs.”
Herzog spent quite a while with the guests, too, and he also painted the agreement in black and white with no shades of grey. Reportedly, the leader of the opposition stressed, too, that he “believe[s] the agreement with Iran is bad,” saying, “I, too, am deeply critical of the deal with Iran. … I believe there’s great danger in letting the hungry Iranian tiger out of his cage and allowing him to roam the region and upset its balance of power. … The agreement legitimizes Iran as a nuclear threshold state within 10 or 15 years, in a totally different way from today.”
On the following day, Livni wrote on Facebook, “The agreement with Iran is bad and Israel has a right to express this position everywhere.” She went on, “Since the signing of the agreement, all the dams have been burst. Iran is legitimate, the agreement is already being implemented de facto by the powers and money and weapons are flowing its way from Europe and Russia.” This is the same Livni who, under Netanyahu’s auspices, gave the false impression of conducting negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. Since that bubble burst, the Palestinians are breaking through roadblocks on their way to more international organizations, and Israel is the one losing its legitimacy in the world.
Like Netanyahu, the opposition leadership is also careful to stress that it is not meddling in domestic American politics. Right. “I have no intention of publicly confronting the American president or his administration,” Herzog said, adding, “I have no intention of telling you how to vote.” Several minutes earlier, he had said, “Every Israeli patriot is worried about the agreement with Iran.” The high-level visitors were supposed to understand from what he was saying that anyone not concerned about the agreement, or anyone more worried about the results of it being undermined, is not an Israeli patriot. From there, it’s only a short distance to the conclusion that American members of Congress who vote in favor of the agreement are turning their backs on Israeli patriots.
Members of the Democratic delegation can tell folks back home that the prime minister, who represents the positions of 61 coalition Knesset members, and the leader of the Zionist Camp with the backing of the 23 members of his faction, expect them to vote against the agreement. Add to them the six Knesset members from Yisrael Beitenu, and 91 elected Israeli officials will be grateful to anyone who works against the agreement with the state that calls for their destruction. The impression would have been different had Netanyahu allowed former heads of the intelligence community to reveal what they really think about the agreement. Then the congressmen would have found out that senior Israeli patriots are actually concerned about the way the leaders of the state have been handling themselves since the beginning of negotiations with Iran and to this very day.
Many a worthy member of the defense establishment would have signed off on every word in an interview given by reserve Brig. Gen. Ami Ayalon, a former Labor Party minister, to the Jewish publication The Forward. The one-time Shin Bet director claimed that Israel should have stood beside the United States all along to ensure that any agreement reached would be the best one possible. In the top echelons of the Mossad one can find more than a few who agree with the views of Efraim Halevy, who headed the organization in the past and who wrote that the agreement includes elements that are critical to Israel’s securityand that an agreement was preferable to no agreement. Does Herzog think that Halevy is not an Israeli patriot?
In return for his support in condemning the agreement, Netanyahu rewarded the head of the opposition with a bear hug. In a video address to Jewish activists in the United States, Netanyahu said, “Isaac Herzog, who ran against me in this year’s election and who works every day in the Knesset to bring down my government, Herzog has said that there is no daylight between us when it comes to the deal with Iran.”
Herzog, who was opposed to this agreement before it was hammered out, is finding it hard to come down from the tree. The policy document made public by the Zionist Camp in April demands, among other things, that Israel be granted “unlimited operational capabilities in the face of threats and violations of the agreement and in the face of enemies supported by Iran in the region.” Herzog and Livni did not settle for anything less than “advance legitimacy for any activity that Israel will be forced to undertake to defend itself in the situation that has arisen.” “Any activity” could mean a military attack.
It’s hard to find an international agreement in which all sides got everything they wanted. Iran is not a weakened and downtrodden Palestinian organization that 22 years ago signed an agreement that did not include even a day’s freeze of construction in the settlements that are the focal point of the conflict. Netanyahu was never interested in a compromise with Iran, nor with the Palestinians. He wants to bring them to their knees. Netanyahu does not want to reach an understanding with President Barack Obama. He wants to defeat him. If Herzog wants to differentiate himself from Netanyahu, he has to stop going on about the “bad agreement” and reconcile himself to the fact that the alternative to this agreement is worse. A Sancho Panza type who carries Netanyahu’s water in the war against the world is not an alternative to his bad government.
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