Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Deal with Iran is a Bad Deal – Approve it!

Harsh words have been used to criticize the agreement with Iran, according to which inspections are dubious, seemingly much in the hands of the untrustworthy Iranian regime itself. Iran makes it clear that it intends to remain the leading state sponsor of terror in the Middle East (and possibly elsewhere), and has recently increased its advanced military acquisitions from Russia and China.

At a time when sanctions had begun to have a serious impact on the Iranian regime, they were lifted by negotiating this agreement. Whether the United States and the other signatures of the agreement have been naïve, achieving “peace in our time” along the lines of Chamberlain’s agreement with Nazi Germany, or have defused the cloud of nuclear threat, remains to see.

Iranian leader tweets Obama with gun to his head - July 18, 2015 

Those in favor of a liberal and peaceful reaching out toward agreement with a non-liberal, deceitful, cruel and genocidal regime, are naturally in favor of ratifying this severely flawed agreement, and try to convince as that the deal isn't that bad.

And those forces who look at Iran as a severe threat to the world, whether because they are realistic, or because they are inclined to blame the other, want to reject the deal, and to convince us that it is all bad.

While there are both assets and shortcomings to the deal, some of the flaws, such as inspections, seem all too problematic, as does the beyond provocative genocidal intentions that in self-confident arrogance continue to be expressed by Iranian leaders, no less, and perhaps with greater force, after the deal has been agreed upon.

But at this stage to reject the deal is as naïve as its signing. The Iranian regime does not want a deal. They do not want to sign commitments, which, some of them, they will have to break, either deceitfully or, if necessary, openly defy. All they want is the lifting of sanctions, which they have already achieved, with the possibility to continue their nuclear threat, establishing them as the leading force in this area of the world. The United Nations has voted to suspend and lift sanctions, European companies have re-ignited business with Iran, and Russia and China are now openly selling advanced weapons technology and airplanes.

The Iranian parliament has postponed its vote till after the vote in the Congress. An American rejection will put the blame on the US, cause an internal American rift, while simultaneously unite moderates and extremists in the Iranian regime. Nothing will prevent them to increase their significant support of terror and military forces such as Hizballah, and freely develop military nuclear power. No restraints, no limitations, and no sanctions.

This bad deal has trapped the United States, the more moderate Sunni Arab regimes, and Israel. A rejection of the deal will only trap them even further, while Iran is relieved of sanctions, relieved of restrictions, and relieved of blame.

Thus, at this stage, the deal should be approved. However, I suggest the establishment of a Monitoring Committee, headed by the United States, with relatively moderate Sunni States, France and Germany, and Israel. While this committee would not in itself have the means to implement either sanctions or inspections, it can have a strong monitoring capability, a moral impact, and a strong public diplomacy standing. Parallell to the overt monitoring of the implementation (or non-implementation) of details in the agreement, such a monitoring committee would have access to the most advanced intelligence. While a considerably better deal would have been preferable, the deal does provide for a stronger diplomatic stance vis-à-vis Iran. Exposure of non-compliance will therefore have considerably greater impact than without a deal.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Where was the left when the settlers hijacked Zionism?

In an article in Haaretz Eva illouz asks, “Where was the left when the settlers hijacked Zionism?”

My reply would be as follows:

1. when in the beginning of the 1990s, Peres and Rabin moved toward peace, the left was tired after decades of struggle, and left the work to the reliable leadership of the two. It meant the leaders were left alone on the road to peace, and not actively backed by the public that so much desired exactly that. The streets were therefore left to the right, becoming increasingly anti-Rabin and anti-Peres, till the extent of the horrendous demonstration behind a symbolic coffin – in which Netanyahu participated. This was the reason for that impressive and in the end so tragic gathering, in which Rabin was assassinated.

Demonstration against Rabin - Netanyahu seen from behind

2. During those years of intensive efforts at peace making, buses were blown up by Palestinian terrorists all over the country. The left was paralyzed, and only made ridiculous statements that “when peace comes, buses won’t blow up anymore.” That is, the left was stuck in a cynical fantasy of the “Great peace.” The left should have condemned every act of terror, just like we all condemn the acts of terror by Jewish terrorists. Thus, the left, lost its connection with much of mainstream Israel.

3. Since 1977, Israel has mainly been ruled by the right. All center-left governments since then have been short-lived, but done amazing attempts at reaching out – Rabin, Peres, Barak and Olmert, and Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. The Palestinian response has not been encouraging in any of these cases, even when offered a Palestinian state on all occupied territory (or exchange of equal territory). Responses have been suicide attacks, blown-up buses, endless rockets, war of terror.

4. During all these years, particularly right-wing governments have encouraged increased settlement activity (though it should be kept in mind that Netanyahu – davka – accepted Obama’s request for a ten month settlement freeze to get the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. They didn’t arrive, but asked for prolongation. With increased spending on settlements, money to the ultra-Orthodox, and to defense, the center- and left wing young and middle class Israeli has had to work even harder, pay more taxes, pay more for housing (except in the settlements) – and has not had the strength to continue his or her political activism, while paradoxically paying for those who destroy Israeli democracy.

5. Under the present circumstances, I suggest as one of several steps to be taken, but something that is very concrete and should be implemented immediately (though in steps): Unilateral withdrawal from civilian occupation beyond the security fence. That does not require agreement or reliance on anyone besides Israel itself. It means relocating (the term used by – Michael Oren!) the 20% of the settlers that live in 80% of the settlements (since these are smaller, and scattered all over, and most disruptive to Palestinian statehood).

6. In which country do you find men and women, till their mid-forties, physicians and others, being called up for combat duty, seeing the sons of their friends killed, treating the wounded, and then demonstrating for peace – the peace that almost anyone who has had such experiences yearn for, like the majority of the Israeli population, who is willing to give up the hold on occupied territory to a Palestinian state, alongside Israel?

7. So where was the left? Hard-working, paying taxes, trying to make a living and affordable housing and carry the burden of a country that we love, for which we bleed in so many ways, but refuse to give up the Hope.

From Steve Zemmelman's review in Spring, Summer 2015:

The Hero and His Shadow: Psychopolitical Aspects of Myth and Reality in Israel puts Israel’s recent history on the analyst’s couch with a particular focus on the intertwining development of individual and collective identity in the Jewish state. … For me, it was a particular challenge and pleasure to read this book since, as an American Jew who is on a path of discovery about what it means in my life to be Jewish, there was a great deal here that I found new and challenging. …

The Hero and His Shadow offers an intelligent, sensitive, humanized perspective on the trajectory of events that led to the current tragic situation in the Middle East so specifically detailed in Ari Shavit’s recent book, My Promised Land. Unlike Shavit’s excellent history … Shalit’s analysis reflects a skillful blending of the inner psychological and archetypal dimensions of the problem without collapsing it into a homogeneous whole.

In one section where he discusses the yearning for a strong leader by Israelis and Palestinians who are gripped by terror and the tendency to see the world in terms of polarized opposites, Shalit comments, “peace…poses a threat to those who identify with the quest for grandiose wholeness and totality, in which there is no room for the other." I could not help thinking at the same time about the current situation in American politics where there is so much polarization and such limited capacity on the part of many to see self and other as part of the civic whole.