France’s foreign minister single-handedly torpedoed a nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 nations in Geneva this weekend. A deal was in place. The American and Russian foreign ministers had flown in in order to sign it. But Laurent Fabius announced that the terms weren’t punitive enough and didn’t satisfy France. So everyone went home and no deal was announced. The parties will meet again and attempt to nail things down then.
As a result of France’s heroic actions in standing up to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Francois Hollande, who will visit Israel this week, has had his visit officially upgraded. He will get the unusual honor of addressing the Knesset (without being heckled by the far-right settler MKs).
There are several ways of reading this. Either France has, after originally helping Israel become a nuclear state in the 1950s, returned to its former role of being Israel’s enabler; or there’s a Kabuki performance going on in which the U.S. is playing the good-cop to France’s bad cop. This enables the U.S. to be seen positively by the Iranians and France to be seen positively by Israel. In that sense, the hardliners in both countries are somewhat soothed, while everyone lives to meet another day and come to an agreement then.
On a related matter, every year there’s a meeting of the American Jewish communal élite called the General Assembly. Bibi Netanyahu invariably travels to lecture the assembled multitude on proper pro-Israel etiquette on some issue of moment. The audience obediently gives him a standing ovation and then returns to whatever they were doing beforehand. Then they return home and the leadership changes nothing in the Jewish heartland (except that Jews there grow increasingly disenchanted with their leaders as the Pew Center poll shows).
Bibi’s lecture today was especially insulting and virulent:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did his utmost to rally North American Jewry behind his uncompromising stand on Iran, calling on them Sunday night to stand with him in opposition to the deal under discussion in the Geneva forum.
It is a “bad and dangerous deal” that threatens Israel’s survival and “on matters of Jewish survival, I will not be silenced,” Netanyahu said.
…He reminded them that the purpose of the “crippling” international sanctions that “brought Iran to its knees” had been “to get Iran to dismantle – dismantle – its nuclear enrichment capabilities, which are used for atomic bombs, and its heavy water plutonium reactor, which is also used for atomic bombs.”
…The premier said it was obvious why Iran was seeking a nuclear deal with the six world powers. “Because the sanctions are biting, crippling their regime…What is being proposed now is a deal where Iran retains all of its capacity, not one centrifuge is dismantled, not one.”
Iran, he noted, would “get to keep tons of enriched uranium and they can take these centrifuges which are not dismantled underground … and, within a few weeks or months and at the time of their choosing, the fissile material can be used for a bomb,” Netanyahu said.
He added that “Iran does not give up anything of that. It makes a minor concession that is meaningless with today’s technology and with current capacities. In other words, none of the Security Council resolution which the P5+1 powers passed are met. But what is being given to them is the beginning of the rollback of sanctions.”
Netanyahu, who was greeted by a standing ovation when he stood to speak, said he would not rest until Iran’s nukes were “dismantled” and challenged the assembled GA participants to “speak up” – not only for Israel’s security but for their own. It won’t be long before Iran builds missiles with the capability to reach the United States, he noted, and they could carry nuclear weapons, should it achieve that capacity.
“Do you want that?” he asked the crowd, which responded, with an emphatic “No!”
“So do something about it,” he shot back.
There is at least one positive result of the Pew poll I referred to above. Those thousands of Jewish leaders who cheered Bibi on represent an increasingly isolated element of American Jews. The majority of our community actually opposes Bibi on this and supports the deal being brokered by the Obama administration. The farther Bibi and the pro-Israel lobby goes out on a limb on this subject, the less credibility they all have among us.
So I say to Howard Kohr, David Harris, Abe Foxman and the rest of ’em–keep it up. Support Bibi to the hilt. The more enthusiastic you are, the shorter the lives of your organizations and your leadership of them will be.
Bibi told his audience that stopping Iran was a matter of “Jewish survival.” This is one of my pet bugaboos and I’m glad he brought it up. While he may be the elected prime minister of the State of Israel, that does not equal ‘the Jewish people.’ Bibi leads the 6 million Jews of Israel, but he doesn’t lead a single Jew outside that country and has no right to speak for me or any other Diaspora Jew. Allowing him to speak for all Jews in the world only furthers the notion advanced by some anti-Zionists and anti-Semites that there is no difference between the two. Isn’t it interesting that Bibi Netanyahu, in this, makes common cause with such an unsavory lot?