During the campaign, Barack Obama made statements — criticized in several quarters — regarding his willingness to talk directly with Iran.
Now that he is president-elect, he has shown himself to be true to his word. On “Meet the Press” yesterday, he explained that he was willing to conduct talks with Iran “and give them a clear choice and let them make a determination in terms of whether they want to do this the easy way or the hard way.
“We need to rachet up tough but direct diplomacy with Iran, making very clear to them that their development of nuclear weapons would be unacceptable, that their funding of terrorist organizations, their threats against Israel, are contrary to everything we believe in.”
This is part of his carrot and stick policy, which would provide economic incentives if Iran cooperated, and a tightening of sanctions if it didn’t.
My first response, on reading this, was to wonder: Does Obama truly imagine that Iranian officials aren’t already aware of US concerns on the issue, or that Iran cares if what they are doing is unacceptable to the US and contrary to everything Americans believe in?
It took Iran one day to answer that question:
Hasan Qashqavi, spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, said today that this policy was unacceptable. He indicated that Iran refuses to suspend enrichment and demanded that the US recognize Iran’s “nuclear right.”
He also called for Obama to alter the current administration’s confrontational policy toward Iran, saying only then could the current impasse be overcome. In other words, “We’ll do what we want, and if you want to be on good terms with us, offer only carrots and get rid of the stick.”
Obama’s approach — which strikes me as “pie in the sky” — bespeaks a certain liberal naiveté. It is predicated on thepremise that dialogue is possible with all people, as people are essentially reasonable. The problem is that it’s not so. There is true evil in this world. It is not accessible to reason, and dealing with it requires a strong stance, not dialogue.
This is the beginning of a very steep learning curve for the soon-to-be president. What scares me is that we are dealing with some very serious evil out there and we need someone at the helm in Washington who knows how to call it.
Obama’s notion of increased sanctions seems to me to be fairly worthless, because the international community has not cooperated in applying the meaningful sanctions that would make a real difference. It’s not clear to me what Obama thinks he can do with regard to sanctions, in the small window of opportunity remaining, that would change the scenario.
Mohammad ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has just admitted that international efforts with regard to deterring Iran have failed. “In fact,” he said, “we have not moved an inch towards a settlement of the issue…”
ElBaradei — who is Egyptian — has never been high on my list of trustworthy or competent individuals. Now he says he has great hope for the situation with Obama coming in. What he proposes is a “grand bargain” between the West and Iran that would give Iran “the power, the prestige, the influence” that it has been after. You see, the whole problem is that Iran hasn’t been given sufficient respect, and doesn’t like being threatened. In fact, says ElBaradei, the US should also be willing to talk to Iran about grievances going back 50 years.
Heaven help us! Were we to take ElBaradei’s proposals seriously, life as we know it would be destroyed. But what he says is of no consequence, and it’s good to know that he’s about to retire.
What concerns me is that this man with distorted views thinks Obama represents hope. And the question of consequence is how much Obama will buy into a “be nice” philosophy.
He may not acknowledge it yet, but as I see it, Obama’s options are very limited. He has said a nuclear Iran is unacceptable. The Iranians have rejected dialogue. There’s no reason to believe sanctions will work. What does that leave?
At the end of last week, President Bush, speaking at the Saban Forum in Washington, said that the US would not let Iran go nuclear. Calling this a “major threat to peace,” he said, “…we have made our bottom line clear: For the safety of our people and the peace of the world, America will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.”
The implication here is that he is not speaking only about the waning days of his administration, but about the policy of his successor.
Meanwhile, the Post learned last week that Israel is developing contingency plans for attacking Iran even if the US does not cooperate.
Obama is taking office at a critical time and will be tested quickly.
How dumb can we be? That’s not my question (although I might ask it), but the question of Alex Fishman, writing in YNet today.
Fishman says the government is keeping a secret the fact that Hamas may possess longer range missiles — missiles that can reach to the Ashdod port and even Beersheva.
While they’re staying mum, the ministers, he reports, are thinking up reasons why a major operation into Gaza would not be good. The list “starts with the argument that we must not irritate the new US Administration.” This is an argument I choke on. The responsibility of our government is to the security of our citizens.
Hamas maintains eight brigades with almost 17,000 troops in Gaza. “Hamas is firing rockets at this time because it identified an Israeli weakness. This weakness is an opportunity to create new rules for the lull.” What this means is we’re on the defensive, and exhibiting great eagerness for that “quiet” — which is due to be renewed.
“And what will happen if Hamas and the other groups decide that they are no longer interested in a lull? What will all our experts say then?”
Sitting still and waiting for this to happen, at the time and place of Hamas’s choosing, is very very dumb indeed.
The prisoner release I wrote about yesterday is being postponed for a week at the request of the PA. Abbas is out of the area and wants to be on hand to greet the prisoners and secure maximum PR benefit.
The big battle between Fatah and Hamas regarding the extension of Abbas’s term as president is gearing up.
I want to return to the issue the evacuation of Beit HaShalom and the ensuing violence. Needless to say, the media is full of commentary and analysis with regard to this situation and there is much that it is important to share.
An article that I urge you to read in its entirety is “Extremism breeds extremism,” by David Wilder, the spokesman for the Jewish Community of Hevron. And take heed.
Wilder describes the inequities of the legal/judicial process that the Hevron community has had to deal with, and these inequities should be understood by all.
After painting a grim picture, Wilder says,
“FOLLOWING VIOLENT reactions to the extremely harsh expulsion, which included use of tear gas and stun grenades, I was asked about ‘red lines’ – and decisions to ‘cross those red lines.’ Unfortunately we are presently facing situations where the government is crossing all the red lines that previously existed. The transformation of the judicial system, including the attorney-general and the Supreme Court, into an extended arm of the political arena ends all notions of impartiality or objectivity. (emphasis added)
“Hebron residents are often labeled extremists. However nothing could be more extreme than the above-described actions of [Attorney General] Mazuz and [Chief Justice] Beinisch. But due to their positions and political ideologies, their extremism is considered legitimate.
“…Hebron’s Jewish community opposes and rejects any and all violence aimed at innocent people, be they Arabs, Jews or anyone else. However it is unthinkable and intolerable that Israel’s top leadership should change the rules in the middle of the game…Such actions, as we have recently witnessed, quite literally push a large segment of the population into a corner with no way out, creating a dangerously volatile situation. Peace may breed peace but by the same token, extremism breeds extremism.
“The real danger to Israeli society is not a few dozen kids throwing rocks while violently and illegitimately being thrown out of a home in Hebron. The true threat to our country is the warping of the fundamental institutions whose presence is supposed to protect the people rather than terrorize them. The decisions made concerning Beit Hashalom were not based upon justice, rather upon pure judicial terror.” (emphasis added)
Then there is Moshe Arens, former minister of defense and former minister of foreign affairs. He asks, “Where have all the young men gone?”
Arens says all that needs to be said about the behavior of the young people who were violent in Hevron has been said. But the question that still must be asked is what brought them to this place, when most have been raised in religious homes, within the influence of an idealist Zionism. And he ventures an answer:
“The turning point that sent these youngsters off on a deviant tangent was most probably the disengagement from Gush Katif, the uprooting of 8000 Israeli settlers from their homes, and the use of the IDF to carry out this forcible evacuation. In many ways it was the original sin, from which Israel will continue to suffer for years to come. The blow, which was directed at the settlers in Gush Katif was felt by all the settlers in Judea and Samaria and their families as being directed at them, especially as the prime minister stated that it was the intention of the Kadima-led government to continue the process by evacuating settlements in Judea and Samaria. (emphasis added)
“The youngsters in the settlements looked to their elders to avert what they considered a catastrophe, and the elders, backed by a good part of the population of Israel, pleaded with the government and organized mass demonstration in the hope that wisdom would prevail. They stopped short of using violence to oppose the evacuation. No blood was shed in those traumatic days and nights in August 2005, not because of the sensitivity and determination displayed by the army and police, but because the leaders of the settlement movement decided to refrain from encouraging violent resistance to the removal of the settlers from their homes. Is it any wonder that many of the youngsters in the settlements considered their elders as having failed to protect their homes, and that some of them began considering other means of preventing the destruction of their homes in the future?
“What is really surprising is that [neither] the leaders of the country who had ordered the IDF to carry out the disengagement from Gush Katif, those simple-minded souls who claimed they were waging a crusade for a democratic Jewish State, nor the judges on the High Court of Justice who had approved the blatant violation of the civil rights of those being uprooted from their homes, seemed not to realize that they had set in motion a process of alienation of a significant part of Israeli society from the State and its institutions, on whose periphery a frustrated lunatic fringe would emerge. Nor did they realize they were creating a rift in Israeli society that would threaten the unity of the people of Israel. (emphasis added)
Could it possibly be that what happened in Hevron in the last few days carries elements of a blessing? It does if it causes the nation to take a hard look at what has gone wrong and provides an impetus for doing repair. If the Jewish State does not offer justice, where in this world can it be found?