During the Iran nuclear talks in Lausanne, Trita Parsi tweeted that Bibi sees “peace as an existential threat.” It’s unclear whether he sees it as an existential threat to his political career, to Israel, or both.
His statements since the framework agreement came a few days ago have been increasingly shrill, unpersuasive, and desperate. He went on every U.S. Sunday political talk show that would have him (three, to be exact) trumpeting his disdain and dissatisfaction. However, his objections, which had been increasingly sidelined in the days running up the deal’s announcement, now appear irrelevant: the U.S. has gotten many of the Iranian concessions it sought (though not the ones Israel sought) in terms of restraining its nuclear program. These are terms that most reasonable observers agree go a considerable distance to responding to Israeli concerns. Even Israeli moderates like the nation’s most popular columnist, Nahum Barnea, and the former Mossad chief, Efraim Halevy, say the deal is far better than they thought and one Israel should be able to live with. No less a pro-Israel advocate than Dianne Feinstein, has abandoned the good ship, U.S.S. Lobby and told Bibi to “contain himself” and learn to live within his limits (to his surprise, undoubtedly, as he didn’t imagine he had any).
Now that Bibi understands he’s lost this round, he’s prepared a new series of demands for the next round of negotiations which will lead to a June 30th final deal. The demands range from the detailed and technical, to the global and outrageous. As for the latter, Bibi decided his ploy of demanding Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state worked so well in torpedoing the last set of Israel-Palestine peace talks, that he decided to introduce a version into the Iran talks. Iran should be made to recognize Israel as part of the agreement.
It doesn’t matter to Bibi that this is a nuclear agreement and not one that tackles historic diplomatic issues going back to 1979. That’s irrelevant. Nor does Bibi care that Israel not only doesn’t recognize Iran, but it’s confiscated a joint Israel-Iran oil pipeline worth $1-billion. And despite repeated legal defeats in the courts, it’s refused to pay up or settle. Further, Israel has a set of draconian sanctions against Iran in place (sanctions it routinely violates, by the way). You’d think if Bibi truly wanted Iranian recognition he’d show it by removing them.
But hey, Bibi, don’t let anything as inconvenient as facts or reason get in your way.
Nor is he satisfied with stopping at this single demand. He also, according to FoxNews, wants to:
…Require Iran to stop its aggression in the region, its terror worldwide, and its calls and actions to annihilate the state of Israel.
In other words, he wants Iran to turn into a nice, little teddy bear; a compliant place which will no longer offer resistance to Israeli efforts to impose its own will on the region. Bibi wants to accomplish through this deal what he hasn’t been able to accomplish on the regional battlefields of Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza. Sorry fella, that’s not how the rules work. If you can’t impose your will on the battlefield and alienate the only ally who can further your interests at the negotiating table, you don’t get your way by trying to come through the back door.
Not to mention that Iran and many states in the region believe it is Israel that is the primary aggressor in the region; that Israeli terror poses a major danger; and that Israel is the one seeking to annihilate the Iranian regime, if not Iran itself. Note that several “serious” Israeli or pro-Israel “analysts” have suggested attacking Iran with nuclear weapons. One of them, Sheldon Adelson, will likely spent $200-million in the next election cycle to elect a president who would be willing to do precisely that.
Among the technical demands Israel is now advocating are the end of any advanced centrifuge use and closing of the Fordo advanced nuclear site. The deal agreed to last week placed significant constraints in each of these areas, but that doesn’t satisfy Bibi.
Netanyahu has other irons in the fire. In the Senate, several anti-deal bills are making their way through committee. The one with most Democratic support is by GOP Sen. Bob Corker. It calls for Senate approval of the final Iran agreement before sanctions against Iran will be lifted. It’s not clear what would happen to the agreement if the Senate rejects it. The hawks and GOP believe it will doom it. The President doesn’t trust the Senate and has spoken out against the proposed legislation.
Corker is a high-stakes gamble for Obama. He could go ahead with the deal even if it fails to pass Congress. But a defeat there might seal the deal’s fate. If the president does acquiesce to Corker and a vote on the deal, he has to trust Senators like Chuck Schumer, one of the Lobby’s savviest and most obliging figures. The ever-ambitious Schumer wants to replace Harry Reid as the next Minority Leader. His thinking on the deal is opaque: will he do Bibi’s bidding and try to sink the bill, doing so artfully so his fingers aren’t on the deed? Or will he stick with his president and advance his agenda by shepherding a deal through the Senate? One thing is for certain, Schumer just joined 12 other Democrats as co-sponsors on the Corker bill. He did this in defiance of Pres. Obama.
Despite Bibi’s protests to the contrary, he doesn’t want a “better deal.” He wants a dead deal. These new demands are dust thrown in the eyes of the world hoping it will blind them to the prospect for a resolution of decades-long conflict over Iran’s nuclear program. The world must not let him do it. It must say, as Obama is surely saying right now: no, you had your chance. You could’ve been inside the tent participating in the process. But you wanted to do things your way. To grandstand and curry favor with your pals in the GOP. Now, suffer the consequences.
There are also deeper motivations for the Israeli leader’s behavior. He’s not only afraid of Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions. He’s afraid of Iran as a powerful regional competitor. Not just a military or political competitor, but a commercial one as well. Along with Turkey, it poses the gravest threat to Israeli interests.
Israel for decades has been able exploit differences among the Arab and Muslim states. Either the differences were ethnic and religious (the Sunni-Shia split); or they were political (between authoritarian and populist political systems during the Arab Spring). Either way, Israel managed to wend its way among all the conflicting forces which might sabotage its interests. It managed to split its enemies and to defang whatever power they might have to resist Israeli interests.
A rapprochement between Iran and the west sets up that country as a rising power in the region. One that could become Israel’s most formidable rival either on the battlefield, at the negotiating table, or in the marketplace.