Iranian in-your-face obstinacy is what we must be grateful for. It is all that can save us, as we confront the foolishness and naiveté being displayed by the UN and nations — the US, France, and Russia — participating in negotiations with Iran.
Last week headlines were made when a draft of a potential agreement was tentatively accepted by Iranian negotiators at an IAEA meeting in Vienna. The proposal was handed out to those present by IAEA head Mohammed ElBaradei, a snake in the grass if ever there was one. There was no discussion of this proposal at the meeting, according the Guardian — it simply reflected an understanding established in principle in Geneva on October 1, with the addition by ElBaradei of some modifications that had been proposed and some red lines that had been set forth. Many details were lacking. Many questions were left unanswered.
There was no formal acceptance of this proposal by nations participating either, merely an informal indication by the US, France and Russia that they had no objections. Chief Iranian negotiator, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said he would forward this to Iran and gave a fairly positive interview to CNN.
From some quarters a very short-lived optimism was expressed that the nuclear crisis with Iran had been averted.
Not so fast. Not so easily.
The proposal called for Iran to ship some 70% of its (known) low-enriched uranium abroad for processing, first to Russia and then France — which would then send rods back to Iran for peaceful uses. By reducing available Iranian stockpiles of enriched uranium, it was thought that Iran’s potential to further enrich uranium for use in manufacturing bombs would be significantly diminished.
The international concern at this point is preventing Iran from reaching the threshold in low-enriched uranium that would allow it to turn its stocks into more highly enriched uranium for a bomb within a matter of months.
But the plan did not call for a total halt to further Iranian enrichment and did not require extensive monitoring of Iranian nuclear facilities.
Iran was supposed to provide a final answer on Friday, and, not surprisingly, none was given. Iranian representatives said that the proposal was being studied and an answer would be forthcoming within about a week. But then speaker of the Iranian parliament, Ali Larijani, declared that the West was trying to cheat Iran. And various other proposals began to surface, according to the Financial Times (UK) — plans that would require transfer of less fuel, or transfer at a later date, or keeping it all in Iran.
For Israel, and indeed for the world, the proposal put forth by the IAEA, or anything akin to it, would be an unmitigated disaster. (Even if most of the world doesn’t realize it.) For it would forestall sanctions and would effectively block our ability to carry out a military hit. Were Iran to agree to this proposal, should we then proceed with an attack, we would be cast as an international pariah, a seeker of military violence, to a degree that would make what is being done to us now, post-Goldstone, look a bear hug. But the agreement would not prevent Iran from ultimately achieving nuclear weapons or at least the ability to produce them.
Opposition to the proposal was found across a broad political spectrum here in Israel.
Vice Premier Silvan Shalom (Likud), in a meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, called the proposal a “bad mistake,” and explained that:
“Iran will not change its path. Iran’s intentions go beyond its nuclear program. Iran wants to bring back the Persian Empire, and in its view this is a way of buying time.”
He said that Iran was laughing at the world, “turning the agreement into a powder keg that will explode in our faces.”
Earlier, Defense Minister Barak (Labor) declared that this deal would set back Iranian nuclear plans by a year at most and that a total halt to uranium enrichment was required.
Tzipi Livni (Kadima) said the deal “would blow up in our faces,” and Shaul Mofaz (also Kadima) called the proposal “a worthless piece of paper.”
Are the Israelis the only ones who are clear-eyed here?
Barry Rubin lays out the parameters, the intrigue and the dangers of this situation with considerable clarity. I urge you to read what he says, because it is so very important:
This entire discussion will, hopefully, turn out to be moot, and we’ll be back to square one with regard to pushing tough sanctions and considering a military attack.
One European official, cited by the Financial Times, said that the discussions in Vienna “have been something of a reality check for Obama’s officials on just how difficult and intransigent Iran really is.”
If this were to serve as a wake-up call for Obama, that would be encouraging. But we don’t even know that yet.
A change of pace and subject with this link to “J Street’s Spiritual Conceit, by David Weinberg of the BESA Center:
“The pious spiritual claptrap that characterizes J Street’s conference in Washington this week is both a conceit and a new form of Jewish apostasy. Conference speakers earnestly broadcast their ‘profound’ Jewish and ‘spiritual’ identities in order to besmirch the mainstream Jewish community and engender a distancing in US-Israel relations. This certainly does not fool the American Muslim leaders who are speaking at the conference. They know and appreciate exactly what J Street is up to.
The PA President has announced that elections will be held for the presidency and the legislature on January 24.
Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine politburo member, Maher At-Taher, speaking from Bethlehem, and cited by the Palestinian news agency Ma’an, is actually making sense:
How can Abbas announce these elections and pursue reconciliation with Hamas at the same time, he ponders. I would answer that it is typical for Fatah to play both ends against the middle, to attempt to cover all its bases.
Expressing no preference on the part of his party either for or against a unity government, he makes the simple observation that, while elections are constitutional, and not illegal as Hamas claims, Abbas is using them to solve a problem it actually cannot solve:
“The fact is that there is an authority in Gaza and another authority in Ramallah, there’s a deep division in the Palestinian arena and there can’t be elections without the national reconciliation.”
Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Ahmad Bahar of Hamas, expressed concern that for Hamas to recognize the elections would be to recognize the PLO, which, by extension would mean recognizing the Oslo accords that Hamas will not accept.
Sound like a whole lot of people have backed themselves into corners.
All in all, it doesn’t seem like an opportune time for the PA to be involved in negotiations, does it?
One might suppose that the Obama administration would decide to hold off in promoting negotiations until issues of unity and elections were resolved and there was some sort of stability (relatively speaking, of course) in place. But if one were to assume this, one would be mistaken.
For in spite of the Palestinian unrest, and a report by Sec. of State Clinton to Obama last week indicating continuing gaps in the Palestinian and Israeli positions, the Washington Post reports that the administration “is intent” on getting talks going before the end of the year.
There has been more violence on the Temple Mount over the last few days.
And tonight there is a special conference being held at Heichal Shlomo (next to the Great Synagogue) in Jerusalem, as Zionist rabbis call for Jewish ascent to the Temple Mount and an end to the Muslim use of the Temple Mount as a platform for incitement.
A heartening turn of events: It signals a Jewish refusal to surrender control of the Mount to the Muslims.
This is, it must be explained, a sensitive issue. There are rabbis on the far right who say it is forbidden for Jews to go on the Mount because of the sanctity of the place, the difficulty of determining the precise location of the Holy of Holies, and the ritual impurity of the nation of Israel today. Those Zionists rabbis who endorse going up say visitors must first immerse in the mikvah (ritual bath), and on the Mount remain on the perimeter, to avoid standing on areas of sanctity where stepping would be forbidden.
Among those participating are Rabbi Dov Lior, rabbi of Kiryat Arba and Hevron, and Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich, rabbi of the Kotel — neither of whom would remotely be classified as liberal.
Participants include political figures as well: MKs Uri Ariel, Aryeh Eldad and Michael Ben-Ari, all of the National Union; MK Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi); MK Otniel Schneller (one of the more nationalist members of Kadima); Jerusalem Deputy Mayor David Hadari; Moshe Feiglin (head of Manhigut Yehudit faction of Likud).
The date for the conference was selected because it is the anniversary of the ascent of the Rambam (Maimonides) to the Mount. (This authoritative 12th-century Jewish philosopher and codifier of Jewish law was, it seems clear, in favor of ascending.)
Said conference chair, Yehudah Glick, “There is a worrisome phenomenon that every time two or three rocks are thrown [by Arabs], the Jews are distanced from the Temple Mount. The Arabs learned this and they behave accordingly.”
There are sources that are comparing calls of this group to ascend the Mount with inciteful calls by radical Muslim groups. I find this highly offensive and very much off base.