Halevi on chance to work with Israel

This morning, I read with particular interest the piece in the WSJ headlined, “Bibi and Barack Can Unite on Iran.” That’s because it was written by Yossi Klein Halevi, who made an impression on me when he was here to deliver the Solomon-Tenenbaum Lecture in Jewish Studies in 2002.

Here’s the main thing I remember about him: He said that he had always voted for the winner in Israeli elections. When he was feeling a little Likud, the conservative party won. When he was in more of a lefty mood, Labor won. Therefore, whatever Mr. Halevi is thinking, it’s going to come pretty close to expressing the Israeli mainstream at a given moment. I don’t know whether he voted Likud this time or not, but he speaks like a guy who still believes he has his thumb on his nation’s pulse when he writes:

The Israeli Jewish public that voted overwhelmingly for right-wing parties did so primarily for security reasons. The Israeli right of 2009 is a mood, not an ideology. And Mr. Netanyahu understands the expectations of his voters. During the election campaign, he spoke incessantly about stopping a nuclear Iran and the jihadist threat generally — not about settlement growth. However grudgingly, Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition partners will likely accept some limitation on settlement building. And the presence of the Labor Party in the coalition will ensure moderation on the settlement issue. Indeed, the small National Union party is the only right-wing party that places massive settlement building at the top of its agenda, and it will not be part of this coalition.

For all their differences over the nature of a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians, Mr. Netanyahu and Labor leader Ehud Barak have set those aside to focus on the most urgent issue facing the Middle East in the coming months: preventing the emergence of a nuclear Iran and the imposition of an irreversible blackmail on the region. Dealing with that threat will define this Likud-Labor coalition.

Mr. Halevi’s point is that Palestinian statehood and settlements aside, Israel and U.S. need to concentrate on the main strategic issue of the moment — preventing the emergence of a nuclear Iran. He sees the opportunity of working with Egypt and the Saudis, who don’t want Tehran to have that kind of clout, either. He also sees the chance to isolate Iran’s surrogates in the region by building up the economy and “civil society” in the West Bank, which “would present the Palestinians with a stark choice between their two territories: the beginnings of prosperity in a peaceful West Bank, or devastation in a jihadist Gaza.” Which makes sense.

Anyway, I recommend the piece.

16 thoughts on “Halevi on chance to work with Israel

  1. Greg Flowers

    One thing that has always confused me about Iran is that it supposedly large, well educated, affluent, pro-American middle class. How can they allow their nation to be controlled by a small fundamentalist clique intent on making their nation an international pariah. I do not understand why a revolution of the educated has not fomented.

  2. Lee Muller

    Like so many other countries, revolution came to Iran after it was liberalized by reformers, and the academics and young cheered on the unyielding tyrants as they took power. This happened in Czarist Russia, Italy in the 1920s, Germany in the 1930s, and America in 2009.

    Once in power, the Ayatollahs engaged in a purge on liberals and imposed a much more strict religious political order. In Iran, they kept the parliament, to which some less rigid people were elected. Reagan tried to reach out to these moderates and increase the political power by letting them negotiate a partially lifting of the embargo in order to bring in medicine and technology necessary to revive the economy. Democrats in Congress sabotaged that, and gave the extremists an excuse to purge moderate voices.

    Barack Obama, in his blind allegiance to mindless environmentalism, has practically shut down the MOX project here in Aiken, which was recycling the world’s old nuclear weapons into fuel rods for electric generator reactors. The US could us that carrot of fuel to take away Iran’s bogus argument that they need their own uranium enrichment program.

  3. Mike Cakora

    Presidential envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard C. Holbrooke, met with an Iranian diplomat today, the first face-to-face encounter between the Obama administration and the government of Iran. While SecState Hillary Rodham Clinton reacted warmly to the remarks of Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Mohammad Mehdi Akhondzadeh, she’s apparently skeptical that Iran’s leaders will ever embrace the American overtures.

    She and Holbrooke are implementing the administration’s policy of engagement. Today’s meeting was in the context of dealing with Afghanistan, and the apparent hope is to move a little closer to Iran by getting that nation’s support in Afghanistan.

    From these reports I’m not sure of the administration’s coherence in dealing with Iran. Israel has been pounding on its Arab neighbors for support in dealing with non-Arab Iran, but it looks like the Obama administration is willing to draw things out a bit by trying to engage Iran in peripheral issues like Afghan security. Obama seems to think that time is on his side.
    I think that time is running out. Within a year or less Iran will have a nuclear bomb or two, and Israel may have to take action sooner than Obama may recognize. While the problem for US policy is political, for Israel it’s existential. The Israelis may therefore feel greater urgency.

  4. Mike Cakora

    While Israel is rightfully concerned about Iran’s nuke program, it also has to deal with Iran’s support to Hamas in Gaza, primarily the supply of missiles used to shell Israeli towns.

    We’ve recently learned of Israeli attacks on Iranian convoys in Sudan. It appears that Israel informed the US of the attacks, but Israel did not request any US support. The:purpose of the attacks was as follows:

    The attack was aimed at warning Iran and another hostile states that Israel possesses the intelligence capability and the willingness to carry out military operations far from her borders.

  5. bud

    Mr. Halevi’s point is that Palestinian statehood and settlements aside, Israel and U.S. need to concentrate on the main strategic issue of the moment — preventing the emergence of a nuclear Iran.

    Here’s the problem. Folks that see military solutions first and foremost make ridiculous statements like this. You can’t set Palestinian statehood and settlements aside. That’s the kind of thinking that continues to get Americans killed. Those issues MUST be addressed and solved, not “set aside”. If they are, then the nuclear Iran issue becomes much, much easier to solve. Most Iranians are not radical and only wish for a peaceful solution to the issues of the region. But when we start invading neighboring countries and ignoring the Palestinians they become nervous and the radical factions have a great deal more clout. Until we can finally understand that the Palestinians are people who should be respected, not just tolerated as a nuisance, AND that the Isrealis are far from perfect the whole region will continue to simmer. Hopefully Barack Obama gets it. The previous administration was certainly clueless enough.

  6. bud

    I think that time is running out. Within a year or less Iran will have a nuclear bomb or two, and Israel may have to take action sooner than Obama may recognize.

    Where have we heard this before? Let me think. Was it the previous administration that fostered this fear mentality that some middle eastern nation that starts with IRA_ had deadly weapons of mass destruction that were about to destroy the world. Of course we have time, and plenty of it. Iran is no particular threat to Isreal. Isreal has plenty of military hardware to obliterate Iran in the blink of an eye. If we want them to give up their nuclear ambitions these so-called side issues MUST be addressed. To ignore the security of everyone else in the region BUT Isreal is a fools game. The U.S. can broker a lasting peace in the region but we have to be even handed and move away from the Bush way of thinking. Otherwise thousands more American lives are in jeopardy.

  7. Lee Muller

    Libya had nuclear weapons that Clinton did not even know about.
    They handed them over to President Bush immediately.

    Saddam Hussein, Ossama Bin Laden, and other Muslim terrorists used the time granted by cowardice to plan and stage massive attacks on America and Europe. Iran does the same today.

    Iraq continued to pursue its nuclear weapons program throughout the entire two Clinton terms. He saw that even when Congress voted to authorize war with Iraq in 1998, that President Clinton did not have the will to do anything more than drop 80,000 tons of bombs on the desert, in a campaign that was for show, and as ineffective as the bombing in Kosovo.

    Iranian Muslims believe the second coming, or the coming of the last prophets, will not only be preceded by Armageddon, but can be instigated by it.

  8. Bart

    Bill Clinton brought Yassar Arafat to the White House as recognition of his leadership of the Palestinian people. Clinton tried to broker a long lasting peace between Israel and the rest of the Arab world. Result? Nothing.

    Jimmy Carter brought Egypt and Israel together and the Camp David Accord was signed by both. Result? Anwar Sadat was assasinated and the Accord fell apart.

    Bush tried to broker a peace agreement between the countries but to no avail. Every president in the past 40 years has tried to bring a lasting peace to the Middle East but no success to date.

    The United States and Israel have been allies for long time and when concessions have been made in futile peace talks, they have always been concessions by Israel, not the other side. Bush understood this and his administration asked Israel to make even more in an attempt to leave a legacy behind. Israel was willing but the other side was not.

    When anyone comes up with a formula or plan for a long lasting peace that at the same time surplants ancient hatreds and prejudices going back centuries, maybe they will stand a chance. Until then, a culture of religious hatred on one side toward the other will continue to prevail.

    Israel has offered a hand of peace on more than one occasion. Each time, they draw back a bloody stump. That is the harsh reality that must be considered before Kum By Yah initiatives are made.

  9. bud

    It’s good to see that revisionist history is alive and well on Brad’s new blog. I was afraid the entertainment of the looney right would be left behind following Brad’s departure from The State. But Hallalueah! I can cross that off my list of things to worry about.

    I won’t bother with Lee. As usual he makes no sense at all. So let’s move on to Bart. The peace deal brokered by Jimmy Carter has been a resounding success. Isreal and Egypt have not fought a war in 35 years. Thousands of young Egyptians and Isrealis are alive today thanks to the couragous stand of Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat and Menachim Began. Sadly, Sadat paid the ultimate price for his efforts. But the peace survived his death. Only in the mind of the right-wing ideologue could 35 years of peace be construed as “failure”.

    As for Clinton’s efforts. Well he did try and came very close to brokering a deal. Perhaps if Bush had pursued his lead a lasting peace could have been achieved by now. But alas Bush was too busy playing with his Star Wars toys and clearing brush in Texas. The result of his indifference was a collapse of any hope for peace followed by 9-11, two bloody wars, Iranian pursuit of nukes and a host of other disasters. Only in the mind of the right-wing ideologue could an increase in terrorism, American deaths and a decline in the prospects for peace be viewed as “success”.

    Isreal is not the only country in the middle east with a desire to exist as a free and peaceful nation. Until Arab/Persian sensibilities are considered on the same plane with the Jews peace is unlikely to be secured. Jimmy Carter got it. Bill Clinton got it. And now so does Barack Obama. If the crazies on the right would just get out of the way maybe, just maybe we could have peace.

  10. Lee Muller

    “35 years of peace”…. Delusional!

    Just like Clinton’s failure in Kosovo, the Looney Left declares victory and “moves on” to the next lying point.

    There is no Palestine, only a piece of land used by Hamas, Hezbollah and the PLO keep themselves in power by attacking Israel, with the funding and weapons supplied through Iran and Syria.

    This war on Western civilization by 7th century Islamic fascists goes back a lot further than the 1990s.

    The Baath Party of Saddam Hussein assassinated Robert Kennedy.
    The forerunner of Al Qaeda assassinated Anwar Sadat.

  11. Mike Cakora

    Iran’s possession of nukes is worrisome for several reasons recounted here:

    1. Iran’s militant proxies would be able to fire rockets and engage in other terror activities while enjoying a nuclear umbrella. This raises the stakes of any confrontation that they’d force on Israel. Instead of being a local event, however painful, it becomes a global one.
    2. This development would embolden Islamic militants far and wide, on many continents, who would believe that this is a providential sign, that this fanaticism is on the ultimate road to triumph.
    3. They would be able to pose a real and credible threat to the supply of oil, to the overwhelming part of the world’s oil supply.
    4. They may threaten to use these weapons or to give them to terrorist proxies of their own, or fabricate terror proxies. [
    5. There would be a great sea change in the balance of power in the Middle East — nearly all the Arab regimes are dead-set opposed to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. They fervently hope, even if they don’t say it, that the U.S. will act to prevent this, that it will use its political, economic, and, if necessary, military power to prevent this from happening.” . . . .
    6. Several countries in Iran’s neighborhood might try to develop nuclear weapons of their own. “Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons could spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. The Middle East is incendiary enough, but with a nuclear arms race it will become a tinderbox.”


    Few in Netanyahu’s inner circle believe that Iran has any short-term plans to drop a nuclear weapon on Tel Aviv, should it find a means to deliver it. The first-stage Iranian goal, in the understanding of Netanyahu and his advisers, is to frighten Israel’s most talented citizens into leaving their country. ”The idea is to keep attacking the Israelis on a daily basis, to weaken the willingness of the Jewish people to hold on to their homeland,” Moshe Ya’alon said. “The idea is to make a place that is supposed to be a safe haven for Jews unattractive for them. They are waging a war of attrition.”

    Netanyahu is a man of action, so we’ll see how serious he regards the situation.

  12. bud

    Rather than addressing this issue in terms of fear and what’s good for Isreal why don’t we instead focus on hope for ALL the people in the region? Iran probably would prefer to defer on it’s nuclear ambitions if for no other reason than it does not want to be a target. But the U.S., during the Bush regime, provided the radicals with the impetus for continuing the program. Once we withdraw our military assets from Iraq we will be viewed with far less hostility. Likewise if we could somehow broker a peace between Isreal and the Palestinians Iraq would likewise feel less pressure. It’s doubtful that except for a few hardliners the people of Iran harbor any intentions of destroying Isreal by whatever means the fear-mongers can dream up. Yes a nuclear Iran is a danger, but so is a nuclear Isreal. Yet that does not seem to bother the folks who feel inclined to view the middle east through the eyes of an Isreali warrior.

    Obama is searching for a peaceful solution to the Iranian nuclear dilemma. At the end of the day he may not be successful. But because of his unique heritage and strong popularity numbers both in the U.S. and abroad the Iranian will view him with more respect than they ever did the beligerant Bush. At the end of the day our security is weakened by supporting a belicose Isreal while ignoring others in the region. The Saudis, Egyptians and others certainly have no desire to see Iran become a nuclear power. Yet they understand their own people continue to view Isreali intentions with skepticism and deeply hope a peaceful solution can be brokered.

    Obama has a huge challenge and the result is by no means assured. But at the end of the day saber rattling by Isreal cannot be tolerated any more than Iranian nuclear development. I remain optimistic that we have the right man at the right time to pull this off.

  13. Lee Muller

    So far, Hussein Obama has not departed from the traditional Democrat displays of weakness.

  14. Mike Cakora

    bud –
    “Once we withdraw our military assets from Iraq we will be viewed with far less hostility.”

    The truth is that once we leave Iraq, Iraqi Shiite militia now resting and rearming in Iran will head home to stir up trouble. I hope the Iraqis plan a nice homecoming.

    Your faith in the president exceeds what available evidence warrants. He has already been tested and has not made a favorable impression on our friends or foes. Which is rather surprising because he does have a lot of talent on the bench.

    Moreover you seen not to understand that Iran’s mullahs have been murdering Americans for thirty years and don’t seem ready to change their ways. They don’t evidence much respect for Obama and are saying that the US made too big a deal over Holbrooke’s “meeting” with Iran’s deputy foreign minister.

    Please do cut back on the Flavor Aid; we worry about you here.

  15. bud

    The truth is that once we leave Iraq, Iraqi Shiite militia now resting and rearming in Iran will head home to stir up trouble.

    So what. Since when is it our business to decide who should lead a country.

  16. Lee Muller

    It is our business because Al Qaeda was operating against the US out of Iraq and Afghanistan before we smashed them. It would be foolish to permit them any place, anywhere in the world to regroup, recruit, train and plan their next attacks.

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