US Secretary of State John Kerry walks to his plane after a private meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Nov. 8, 2013.
At the end of last week (Nov. 8), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put on his best frown and reiterated that Israel would know how to defend itself — in other words, to attack Iran’s nuclear sites. Netanyahu’s stormy diatribe against the United States and the five other members of the forum conducting negotiations with Iran is reminiscent of the incident dubbed “the hot cassette affair” of January 1993.
Netanyahu, who was running for Likud party leader, confessed in a live television interview to having had an extramarital affair. He claimed that “one man, surrounded by a small gang of criminals” had threatened that if he didn’t pull out of the race, a tape would be revealed showing Netanyahu allegedly having sex with a woman who was not his legally wedded wife. A police investigation launched after Netanyahu filed a complaint did not come up with any indication that Netanyahu had been the victim of extortion or that there was any sign of a cassette.
Now, as then, Netanyahu was quick to run off at the mouth about the “deal of the century” that the Iranian regime had managed to squeeze out of world leaders, before an announcement emerged in Geneva that a deal with Iran had been born. In fact, a day later it became known that an agreement had not been signed. In an interview with CBS, Netanyahu said, “Iran maintains its capability to enrich material for a nuclear bomb, … so Iran effectively becomes a threshold nation, threshold nuclear power nation. … Iran gives practically nothing and it gets a hell of a lot.”
One cannot discount Netanyahu’s claim that the agreement being negotiated in Geneva will enable the Iranians to enjoy a significant easing of sanctions and to continue developing their nuclear program. What’s more, many experts are warning that a six-month time period will allow Iran to reach the stage where a bombing of its nuclear sites will involve environmental damage similar to the proportions of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. This would mean giving up on the military option and enabling the Islamic Republic of Iran to become a nuclear power. On the other hand, these same experts have said again and again that bombing the reactors would delay completion of the Iranian nuclear program by no more than two years.
The United States was effectively faced with two options: The first, a rejection of Iran’s request to gradually lift sanctions in return for a temporary freeze of the nuclear program, a military strike against the nuclear sites without backing and perhaps at the cost of confrontation with Russia and China, and heavy casualties from Iranian retaliation against Israel, American and Jewish targets. All this to “gain” two years. The second option — an easing of sanctions and a limited trial period, taking a chance that Tehran is bluffing and that Netanyahu will go back to blaming the West for abandoning the Jews to their fate. The United States appears to prefer the second option.
Either way, as I noted in one of my previous articles, the opening of negotiations with Iran closed the door on an Israeli nuclear strike against Iran. If negotiations end in an agreement that will put the minds of the P5+1 at rest, but not that of Netanyahu, it’s doubtful whether even the right-wing government which he heads would authorize a military strike against Iran without international support. The prime minister will be hard pressed to find senior figures in the Israeli defense establishment — past and present — who would sanction a move that runs counter to international law and be so confrontational with the United States, Israel’s central ally. On the other hand, President Barack Obama has promised that should negotiations fail, the United States would not rule out any option to stop the Iranian nuclear program. Israel will be asked to watch from the sidelines, as was the case in the Gulf wars, while the US military and its European partners do the job.
Netanyahu believes that even if Iranian President Hassan Rouhani swears in the name of Allah and the Prophet Muhammad that Iran has given up its plan to develop nuclear weapons, and even if he signs an agreement in this spirit before the eyes of the world, he is bluffing. For many years, Netanyahu has claimed that the Iranians only understood force, and that the most severe sanctions would not stop their ambition to develop a nuclear bomb that could wipe Israel off the map.
Since realizing that the international community was unhappy, to put it mildly, with his threats and the way he expressed them, Netanyahu has focused his diplomatic and media effort on preventing the erosion of the sanctions. And now, it’s not enough that there’s no more talk of a military attack, the naïve American patron is giving a hand to the watering down of the sanctions in return for an interim agreement which provides the crafty Iranians with an opportunity to get closer to a bomb. That’s how things appear from Netanyahu’s vantage point.
The publicized confrontation between Netanyahu and the Obama administration over the Iranian nuclear program took place almost at the same time as the heating up of the public dispute between the prime minister and Secretary of State John Kerry over the settlements plan that Netanyahu insists on promoting. Netanyahu claims that the development of an Iranian nuclear bomb constitutes a violation of international law. Kerry claims that development of the illegitimate settlement enterprise will result in a new wave of violence in the region. One can add to the above revelations in the new bookDouble Down, Game Change 2012 by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. Referring to Netanyahu’s demand to draw “red lines” for Iran, Obama told his aides, according to the book, “We all know that Bibi Netanyahu is a pain in the ass.”
The definition “pain in the ass” is appropriate to describe Netanyahu’s opinion of Obama, as well. The prime minister hasn’t bothered to say a kind word about the US president’s determination to remove the chemical weapons from Israel’s northern border — weapons whose real danger was many times greater than that of the Iranian nuclear program. Netanyahu is bothered by the US threat to present a peace plan that will force him to decide from what he would rather take his leave: from most of the occupied territories and the diplomatic, defense and economic support of the United States, or from most members of his Likud party and governing coalition.
The prime minister appears to want to have his cake and eat it, as did late Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir 20 years ago, on the recommendation of then-deputy foreign minister Benjamin Netanyahu, when he was forced to choose between freezing settlement construction and getting US loan guarantees. Both of them hopped over to Capitol Hill, over the head of President Bush the elder (who was also considered a “pain the ass” because he dared place US interests ahead of those of the Likud) in an attempt to force the president to provide Israel with the guarantees, while at the same time continuing to build in the settlements at the height of negotiations with the Palestinians.
The double confrontation of Netanyahu with Obama and with Kerry fell like a ripe fruit into the hands of Netanyahu’s neo-conservative friends in Congress. Those friends do not miss on any opportunity to humiliate their loathed White House rival.
President Bush was at the time in the midst of a serious battle over being elected to a second term. Nevertheless, he refused to give in to politicians dubbed “friends of Israel” and to Jewish lobbyists dubbed “pro-Israel.” Shamir lost the guarantees and the Likud party lost the government. The late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who in the twilight of his years understood the limits of power, rehabilitated the strategic ties with the US administration and decided to bring about a peace agreement with the Palestinians before Iran was to complete its nuclear program.
A week ago, Nov. 4, marked the 18th anniversary of the Rabin assassination — after which Netanyahu brought the Likud and the settlers back to the leadership of the state. Under his rule relations with the US administration are gradually eroding, peace with the Palestinians is growing distant and the Iranian bomb is growing closer. Will Obama — who already won his battle for a second term — manage to save Israel from its own leader?
A 2018 demonstration against antisemitism in Berlin. Photo: Reuters / Fabrizio Bensch.
A slight drop in the number of antisemitic incidents in Berlin during the first half of this year is no excuse for complacency, the city’s antisemitism commissioner emphasized on Thursday following the publication of statistics for hate crimes targeting Jews in the German capital from January-June 2019.
“Antisemitism remains a serious problem that we cannot tolerate in Berlin,” Lorenz Korgel — the city’s commissioner for combating antisemitism — told local news outlet Berliner Morgenpost. “The number of antisemitic incidents remains at a high level. ”
People wear kippas at a demonstration in front of a Jewish synagogue denouncing an antisemitic attack on a young man wearing a kippa, in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2018. (photo credit: FABRIZIO BENSCH / REUTERS)
The population of the State of Israel has increased 2.1% since last year, according to a report released in time for Rosh Hashanah by the Central Bureau of Statistics.
Today, there are 9.1 million citizens of Israel, of which some 6.7 million (74%) are Jewish, the report shows. The country’s citizens also include 1.9 million Arabs (21%) and 0.4% of “others,” including Christians and those of other minority groups.
A women holds up a sign against anti-Semitism at a rally in New York City on Sept. 22, 2019. Photo: Rhonda Hodas Hack.
JNS.org – Hundreds of demonstrators rallied in front of City Hall in New York on Sunday, calling on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and other municipal leaders, as well as those on the national level, to act against antisemitism and the wave of antisemitic hate crimes taking place against the Orthodox Jewish community.
The beach in Tel Aviv, Israel, May 17, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Ammar Awad.
On the eve of the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, ushering in the Jewish year of 5780, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics released its traditional end-of-the-year findings.
Israel’s population now stands at 9.092 million people — 6.744 million (74.2 percent) of whom are Jews, with 1.907 million (21 percent) Arabs and 441,000 (4.8 percent) listed as “other.”
Drew Seigla and Stephanie Lynne Mason. Photo: Instagram.
Drew Seigla and Stephanie Lynne Mason play Pertshik and Hodl, whose love story takes them all the way to Siberia in the award-winning show by the National Yiddish Theatre.
Oct 25, 2019 0People arrive at a polling station to vote in the federal election in Beauce, Quebec, Canada, Oct. 21, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Mathieu Belanger. A top Jewish advocacy group said on Friday it...
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“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.” — Sherlock Holmes, The Boscombe Valley Mystery
“Israel must, in the most blunt and clear way possible, illustrate to Washington that the prosperity of Jordan is a first-rate Israeli security and strategic interest.” — Former head of Mossad Ephraim Halevy at “Between Jerusalem and Amman: 25 Years Since the Signing of the Peace Agreement Between Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,” Institute for National Security Studies, Sept. 25, 2019.
A thought came to mind the other day.
For all the bluster about Judaism and anti-Semitism in America, I am not convinced that far-out-left and liberal young Jews, who have been very strident and even threatening on Israel-related issues and local American political battles, have done much on the ground to confront and quash, one way or another, attacks on Jews. They have portrayed themselves as gliding along a moral highway but have permitted immoral actions to exist quite close to home, far from Gaza (did any of them recite a public Kaddish in the town square for murdered and injured Jews, or their damaged and desecrated property)?
One of the hallmark features of Yom Kippur are the communal sins which we need to repent for. Most Jews focus on what we have done personally towards G-d and towards others. Little thought is given to how we could be better as a community. Or the sins we bear as a community.
However, the communal recitation of the Al Chet, repeated over and over on Yom Kippur is to drive the point home that we are responsible for one another
Incoming freshman Member of Knesset from the leftist, Democratic Union list, Yair Golan, did it again. Golan’s constant delegitimization of his political opponents on the right, smacks of the same delegitimization that tyrants, dictators, demagogues and assorted totalitarians always use, just before the Putsch.
In that regard, he’s right when he said recently, “I’m reminding people that the Nazis came to power democratically, so we have to be careful, very careful, so that radicals with a messianic view won’t exploit Israeli democracy to replace the system of government.” Think “
As Israeli frustration mounts about violence coming out of Gaza, the idea of a ground invasion, and once and for all to finish with Hamas aggression, becomes more appealing. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has endorsed this approach, saying, “There probably won’t be a choice but to topple the Hamas regime.” While sympathetic to this impulse, I worry that too much attention is paid to tactics and not enough to goals. The result could be harmful to Israel.