In an op-ed on February 9, I suggested that Israel’s opposition leader, Isaac Herzog, should stand alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before Congress on March 3, to underline “their common conviction that the regime in Tehran cannot be appeased and must be faced down.”
On Monday evening, as details of the looming US-led deal with Iran emerged from Geneva, Israel’s most respected Middle East affairs analyst, Channel 2 commentator Ehud Ya’ari, made precisely the same suggestion. So problematic are the reported terms of the deal, Ya’ari indicated, that Israel’s two leading contenders in the March 17 elections, Netanyahu and Herzog, need to put aside their differences and make plain to US legislators that the need to thwart such an accord crosses party lines in Israel and stands as a consensual imperative.
After anonymous sources in Jerusalem leaked to Israeli reporters in recent weeks the ostensible terms of the deal being hammered out, various spokespeople for the Obama administration contended that the Netanyahu government was misrepresenting the specifics for narrow political ends. They sneered that Israel didn’t actually know what the terms were. And they made the acknowledgement — the astounding acknowledgement for a United States whose key regional ally is directly and relentlessly threatened with destruction by Iran — that the Obama administration is consequently no longer sharing with Jerusalem all sensitive details of the Iran talks.
And yet among the terms of the deal being reported by the Associated Press from Geneva on Monday are precisely those that were asserted in recent weeks by the Israeli sources, precisely those that were scoffed at by the Administration. Centrally, Iran is to be allowed to keep 6,500 centrifuges spinning, and there will be a sunset clause providing for an end to intrusive inspections in some 10-15 years. If anything, indeed, some of the terms reported by the AP are even more worrying than those that were leaked in Jerusalem: “The idea would be to reward Iran for good behavior over the last years of any agreement,” the AP said, “gradually lifting constraints on its uranium enrichment program and slowly easing economic sanctions.” There is also no indication of restrictions on Iran’s missile development — its potential delivery systems.
In his TV commentary on Monday night, Ya’ari highlighted that the deal could further embolden Iran as it expands its influence throughout this region, and he noted that the isolation of Iran even by Israel’s key allies was already cracking, with the firmly pro-Israel foreign minister of Australia, Julie Bishop, announcing an imminent visit to Tehran — the first Australian foreign minister to make such a trip in a decade.
Ya’ari also noted that the International Atomic Energy Agency has made clear that it lacks the tools to effectively monitor the kind of nuclear program that Iran will be allowed to maintain under the emerging deal — incapable, that is, of ensuring that Iran does not fool the West as it has done in the past.
The devil of such deals is generally in the detail. But the devil, here, is in the principle as well — the principle that the P5+1 is about to legitimize Iran as a nuclear threshold state. From there, it will be capable of rapidly breaking out to the bomb, well aware that the international community lacks the will to stop it.
The Obama administration would evidently like to believe that 10-15 years from now, the ayatollahs will be gone, Iran will have a different leadership, and the threat of what Netanyahu has repeatedly called “the most dangerous regime in the world attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world” will have passed.
But if the deal now taking shape is indeed finalized, the chances of the regime being ousted from within, or effectively confronted from without, will drastically recede. This deal, indeed, will help cement the ayatollahs in power, with dire consequences for Israel, relatively moderate Arab states, and the free world.
It goes without saying that this weekend’s developments in Geneva have only bolstered Netanyahu’s determination to sound the alarm before Congress next Tuesday. It’s also still clearer today why the Obama administration has been so anxious to query his motives and seek to discredit his concerns.
I headlined my February 9 op-ed “Who to believe on Iran: Obama or Netanyahu?” I think we know now.