American singer Mariah Carey became the latest in a long line of celebrities to take vacations or perform in Israel this year, despite the efforts of boycotters. She toured Jerusalem yesterday with her twin children Monroe and Moroccan. Above, at Jerusalem’s Western Wall on Sunday.
* Michael Herzog (Israeli Labour Party leader Herzog’s brother, writing in today’s Financial Times): “Israel is not at the table negotiating the deal on Iran’s nuclear programme. Yet it is Israel’s national security, perhaps more than anyone else’s, that will be affected. Threatened by Iran’s nuclear and hegemonic ambitions, Israel and most of its Arab neighbours question whether the expected agreement will stem either. The choice is not between a good deal and a bad deal. A good deal – permanently rolling back Iran’s nuclear capacity, as was done in Libya – is no longer possible. The question is whether the deal is acceptable, given the confines of the framework agreed in April.”
* “Even as negotiations were under way, Israelis have watched Mr. Khamenei tweet nine “key questions about the elimination of Israel” (the third was: what is the proper way of eliminating Israel?). If the U.S. and its partners do not stand firm in the coming days and years, Israelis feel they may be left alone to face the ayatollahs – enemies who might one day wield the ultimate weapon.”
* Demonstrating outside the Iran talks in Vienna. Raimund Fastenbauer, leader of Vienna’s Jewish Community: “Whoever negotiates with the ayatollahs, but ignores the Supreme Leader Ali Khamanei’s Holocaust denial, has already fallen for Hassan Rouhani’s and Mohammad Zarif’s charm offensive. And whoever ignores the permanently repeated Iranian annihilation threats against Israel is actually putting up the Jewish State’s existence for negotiation.”
* Pro-democracy Iranian exiles join Jews in Vienna. Hiwa Bahrami: “It is like a stab in the back of the democratic and secular opposition in Iran and in exile to recognize regime figures as legitimate negotiating partners while the same regime executes more people under Rouhani than under Ahmadinejad.”
* ISIS release statement justifying Tunisian beach massacre which killed 38: This was “an attack upon the nests of fornication, vice and disbelief in God.” (Tom Gross adds: Families vacationing on the beach is punishable by death, but kidnapping 10 year old girls to auction off as sex slaves is fine, according to ISIS…)
* Islamic State marks U.S. gay marriage ruling by throwing four more gay men to their deaths off a roof in the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor. (This new ISIS video released over the weekend is too sick to link to. Here is one of my previous dispatches on ISIS crimes against gays.)
* Islamists in Nigeria murder five, injure 10 others with suicide bombing at a leprosy hospital, reports AFP.
* The strange world we live in… Shia from impoverished Afghanistan fight not against the Sunni Taliban at home, but travel all the way to Syria to fight alongside Hizbullah and the Assad regime: here the Iranian media publishes images of Reza Esameili, the first member of the all-Afghan Shiite Fatemiyoun brigade fighting in Syria, to be beheaded by Sunni Islamists there. [Warning: Very graphic content]
I attach two opinion articles below, from this morning’s Financial Times and Wall Street Journal, and one semi-sarcastic letter from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the anti-Israel activists who sailed for Gaza yesterday.
* Please “like” these dispatches on Facebook here www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia, where you can also find other items that are not in these dispatches.
-- Tom Gross
1. “How to salvage some security from the botched Iran deal” (By Michael Herzog, Financial Times, June 30, 2015)
2. “The President Against the Historian” (By Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, June 30, 2015)
3. Letter by Benjamin Netanyahu (June 29, 2015)
A GOOD DEAL IS NO LONGER POSSIBLE
How to salvage some security from the botched Iran deal
By Michael Herzog
June 30, 2015
If the United States and its partners do not stand firm in the coming days and years, Israelis feel they may be left alone to face the ayatollahs.
Israel is not at the table negotiating the deal on Iran’s nuclear programme. Yet it is Israel’s national security, perhaps more than anyone else’s, that will be affected. Threatened by Iran’s nuclear and hegemonic ambitions, Israel and most of its Arab neighbours question whether the expected agreement will stem either.
The choice is not between a good deal and a bad deal. A good deal – permanently rolling back Iran’s nuclear capacity, as was done in Libya – is no longer possible. The question is whether the deal is acceptable, given the confines of the framework agreed in April.
That framework in effect legitimises Iran as a nuclear-threshold state and focuses on stopping it from crossing that threshold. In the first decade the deal limits Iran’s capacity to quickly make enough nuclear material for a weapon. But in the second decade Iran is allowed to reduce its breakout time almost to zero, as restrictions on enrichment and stockpiling of uranium expire.
Iran’s nuclear threshold status could trigger nuclear proliferation. Regional rivals, not least the Saudis, may race to catch up. It could also embolden the Iranians to advance their radical and sectarian agenda. In addressing these risks, the context of the deal matters no less than its fine print.
The six world powers negotiating with Iran should insist on certain critical elements: anytime, anywhere inspection and verification; irreversible conversion of excess enriched material in Iran; significant restrictions on research and development relating to centrifuges; a clear and binding pathway to resolving concerns expressed by international inspectors about the possible military dimensions of Iran’s programme. Sanctions relief should be phased over years and be conditional on Tehran meeting these requirements.
But that is not enough. The key to stopping Iran from crossing the threshold at short notice is deterrence. Most of all, the U.S. needs to make clear there will be punishing consequences for violations. In addition, the international community should formally affirm its determination to prevent Iran from acquiring enough fissile material for a weapon, even after the restrictions lapse. The U.S. should also adopt a tough stance against Iran’s hegemonic regional ambitions to reassure traditional allies who have lost faith in American political will to guarantee their security.
Unfortunately, U.S. deterrence has been badly eroded of late, both due to its reluctance to project power in the region, and its overeager approach to negotiating with Iran. Doubts about U.S. deterrence are only reinforced by the administration’s insistence that there is a binary choice between a deal soon and war – a self-defeating assertion which implies that it is the White House, rather than Tehran, that is most likely to be deterred from pursuing its objectives by the prospect of war.
Viewed from the region, one thing seems obvious: the best chance to prevent Iran from acquiring the bomb comes if the U.S. reasserts its willingness to use military force. While Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, has had no qualms stating his red lines, it has not been clear what the deal-breakers would be for those negotiating with him. Yet if such limits were set, they could be insisted upon. With the pressure of sanctions and a U.S.-led posture of deterrence, the western negotiators could credibly make clear that they are resolute, patient and will not accept a deal if their terms are not met.
Even as negotiations were under way, Israelis have watched Mr. Khamenei tweet nine “key questions about the elimination of Israel” (the third was: what is the proper way of eliminating Israel?). If the U.S. and its partners do not stand firm in the coming days and years, Israelis feel they may be left alone to face the ayatollahs – enemies who might one day wield the ultimate weapon.
The President Against the Historian
Michael Oren’s candid account of Obama’s Mideast policy has won him the right enemies.
By Bret Stephens
Wall Street Journal
June 30, 2015
Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, has written the smartest and juiciest diplomatic memoir that I’ve read in years, and I’ve read my share. The book, called “Ally,” has the added virtues of being politically relevant and historically important. This has the Obama administration – which doesn’t come out looking too good in Mr. Oren’s account – in an epic snit.
The tantrum began two weeks ago, when Mr. Oren penned an op-ed in this newspaper undiplomatically titled “How Obama Abandoned Israel.” The article did not acquit Israel of making mistakes in its relations with the White House, but pointed out that most of those mistakes were bungles of execution. The administration’s slights toward Israel were usually premeditated.
Like, for instance, keeping Jerusalem in the dark about Washington’s back-channel negotiations with Tehran, which is why Israel appears to be spying on the nuclear talks in Switzerland. Or leaking news of secret Israeli military operations against Hezbollah in Syria.
Mr. Oren’s op-ed prompted Dan Shapiro, U.S. ambassador in Tel Aviv, to call Mr. Netanyahu and demand he publicly denounce the op-ed. The prime minister demurred on grounds that Mr. Oren, now a member of the Knesset, no longer works for him. The former ambassador, also one of Israel’s most celebrated historians, isn’t even a member of Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party, which makes him hard to typecast as a right-wing apparatchik.
But it’s typical of the administration that no Israeli slight is too minor not to be met with overreaction – and not only because Mr. Obama and his entourage have thin skins. One of the revelations of “Ally” is how eager the administration was to fabricate crises with Israel, apparently on the theory that strained relations would mollify Palestinians and extract concessions from Mr. Netanyahu.
To some extent, it worked: In 2009, Mr. Netanyahu endorsed a Palestinian state, an unprecedented step for a Likud leader, and he later imposed a 10-month moratorium on settlement construction, a step not even Labor Party leaders like Yitzhak Rabin ever took.
But no Israeli concession could ever appease Mr. Obama, who had the habit of demanding heroic political risks from Mr. Netanyahu while expecting heroic deference in return. In 2010, during a visit from Joe Biden, an Israeli functionary approved permits for the housing construction in a neighborhood of Jerusalem that Israel considers an integral part of the municipality but Palestinians consider a settlement.
The administration took the Palestinian side. Hillary Clinton spent 45 minutes berating Mr. Netanyahu over the phone. Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg “summoned” Mr. Oren to Foggy Bottom and read out his list of administration demands. What follows is one of the more memorable scenes in “Ally.”
“Steinberg added his own furious comments – department staffers, I later heard, listened in on our conversation and cheered – about Israel’s insult to the president and the pride of the United States. Then came my turn to respond.
“‘Let me get this straight,’ I began. ‘We inadvertently slight the vice president and apologize, and I become the first foreign ambassador summoned by this administration to the State Department. Bashar al-Assad hosts Iranian president Ahmadinejad, who calls for murdering seven million Israelis, but do you summon Syria’s ambassador? No, you send your ambassador back to Damascus.’”
“Ally” is filled with such scenes, which helps explain why it infuriates the administration. Truth hurts. President Obama constantly boasts that he’s the best friend Israel has ever had. After reading Mr. Oren’s book, a fairer assessment is that Mr. Obama is a great friend when the decisions are easy – rushing firefighting equipment to Israel during a forest fire – a grudging friend when the decisions are uncomfortable – opposing the Palestinian bid for statehood at the U.N. – and no friend at all when the decisions are hard – stopping Iran from getting a bomb.
Best friends are with you when the decisions are hard.
Since “Ally” was published, Mr. Oren has been denounced in near-hysterical terms in the media, Israeli and American. In Israel the carping is politics as usual and in the U.S. it’s sucking-up-to-the-president as usual. The nastiest comments came from Leon Wieseltier, the gray eminence of minor magazines, and the most tedious ones came from the Anti-Defamation League, that factory of moral pronouncement. When these are the people yelling at you, you’ve likely done something right.
Mr. Oren has. His memoir is the best contribution yet to a growing literature – from Vali Nasr’s “Dispensable Nation” to Leon Panetta’s “Worthy Fights” – describing how foreign policy is made in the Age of Obama: lofty in its pronouncements and rich in its self-regard, but incompetent in its execution and dismal in its results. Good for Mr. Oren for providing such comprehensive evidence of the facts as he lived them.
“BY THE WAY, THE VOLUME OF EQUIPMENT THAT HAS BEEN SENT FROM ISRAEL TO GAZA IS MORE THAN 500,000 TIMES LARGER THAN THE YOUR BOATS THAT YOU ARE ARRIVING ON”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu writes to the flotilla participants mentioned in my last dispatch (item 8 here.)
June 29, 2015
Welcome to Israel!
It seems you got lost. Perhaps you meant to sail to a place not far from here – Syria. There the Assad regime slaughters his people every day with the support of the murderous Iranian regime.
Despite that, here in Israel we are dealing with a situation where terror organizations, such as Hamas, are attempting to harm innocent civilians. Against attempts like these we are defending the citizens of Israel in accordance with international law.
Despite that, Israel assists with the transport of humanitarian supplies to Gaza – 800 truckloads a day, more than 1.6 million tons of supplies this past year. The equivalent of 1 ton per resident of Gaza.
By the way, the volume of equipment that has been sent from Israel to Gaza is more than 500,000 times larger than the your boats that you are arriving on.
Israel assists in hundreds of humanitarian projects via international organization including the establishment of medical clinics and hospitals.
But we are not willing to allow in weapons to the terrorist organizations in Gaza, as they have tried to do in the past, by sea.
Just a year ago, we stopped an attempt to bring in hundreds of weapons by sea, that were meant to harm innocent civilians.
There’s no closure on Gaza, and you are welcome to transport, via Israel, any humanitarian supplies.
The sea blockade is in accordance with international law, and has received backing from the UN Secretary General.
If human rights were truly important to you, you wouldn’t be sailing in solidarity with a terror regime that executes, without trial, residents of Gaza, and uses the children of Gaza as human shields.
If you were to come to Israel you would be able to be impressed by the only democracy in the Middle East that is concerned with equality for all its citizens, and freedom of religion for all faiths. A state that operates in accordance with international law in order to provide its residents a secure life and its children to grow up in peace and serenity.