Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By Ira Sharkansky
Letter from Israel 

Good deal/bad deal

 


It isn’t yet a deal, but an oral recitation of principals. That there isn’t something to be signed is potentially significant, to be tested over the next 80 days or so during which the agreement is supposed to be finalized.

Among what we hear is that the Farsi version does not square with the English version. Israel Radio reports that Iranian officials are saying that Americans are lying about the contents.

What we heard from the European official who described the contents sounded promising, but only to those who trust Iran. Its record is replete with hiding, cheating, and failure to live up to commitments. There appear to be safeguards of inspection and phased removal of sanctions, but implementation may be difficult and depends on institutions that have proved unreliable.

An item in the Wall Street Journal focuses on different conceptions about the removal of sanctions. Barack Obama may have saved himself another war on his watch, but may have earned himself a place of honor in the pantheon established by Neville Chamberlain.

What is most troubling is reaching for an agreement that does not deal with the actions of Iran as the world’s leader in promoting and supporting terror and the undermining of non-Shiite governments. Those actions are at least as threatening to the region and the world as Iran’s nuclear aspirations.

Yedioth Aharonoth is, arguably, the most anti-Bibi of Israel’s major newspapers, and a sworn enemy of the paper that is his most fervent supporter, Israel Hayom. Thus, headlines the day after the agreement in Yedioth Aharonoth’s thick weekend edition about the deal with Iran might be taken as representative of a wide swath of Israeli opinion, without a taint for being a Bibi supporter: Sold us out; Fancy defeat; Understandings and suspicions; Going out of business sale; Another victory like that and we’re lost; Question marks. 

One headline was mildly positive (Lesser of evils), but the commentary that followed it was hardly encouraging in pointing to what was not in the agreement. Ha’aretz was positive: Not a bad agreement.

Iran may have achieved something in not having to shut down its nuclear facilities and enjoying a removal of sanctions. However, if one looks at the details one sees—in contrast to Netanyahu’s speech in Washington and the public stance of the Israeli government—the agreement serves the security interests of Israel.”

There were no surprises from Israel Hayom. Its Friday headlines: The deal with Iran: a historic mistake; Why should we believe Iran?; Anger in Israel: The Lausanne agreement is cut off from reality; The commander of the airforce: The airforce can surprise; Obama will try to convince Israel and Congress; Speaker Boehner demands: Bring the agreement to Congress for approval.

The prime minister did not threaten military action, but said that the security cabinet (with responsibility for decisions about military action) is “united in strongly opposing the proposed deal.” He described the deal as leaving Iran with too much nuclear capacity, and as leading to a rapid removal of sanctions that would limit the capacity of outsiders to control Iran’s threats to the region and the world.

Netanyahu also said that a completed deal must include an “unambiguous Iranian recognition of Israel’s right to exist.”

The U.S. State Department rejected that demand, saying that negotiations are “only about the nuclear issue.”

John Kerry was serving another agenda when, according to Israel Radio, he said that Israel was more threatened by a failure to reach an agreement with the Palestinians than by Iran’s nuclear aspirations.

Meanwhile, Kerry’s supporters are calling the Iran deal a “legacy-defining victory” likely to make him a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Skeptics may be forgiven for recalling the Cairo speech that got the prize for Kerry’s boss.

What’s next?

It’s too early to answer several important questions:

Will the parties be able to draft something agreeable to all by the end of June or a bit later?

If so, will it pass muster long enough to begin the reduction of sanctions?

When the first hint of evasion occurs, will the western powers be inclined or able to replace the relaxed sanctions? Obama has said they can be re-instituted “in a snap,” but that, in light of Obama’s record, seems doubtful.

Will the Republican majority in Congress be willing or able to enter the fray, either by legislating a role for itself or by threatening to stymie Obama on something else, like the budget or appointments?

It’s possible to argue about the influence of Prime Minister Netanyahu. He is far from holding a veto, but his capacity to focus on the danger to Israel from the general terms of the agreement, and his access to details via one or another participant (to the annoyance of the United States) may have rendered him influential from the outside. Perhaps because of his persistence, the sides did not reach an agreement in principal, or a framework of an agreement that they could draft and sign. They are trumpeting their success in reaching an oral understanding, but the versions expressed by the two sides differ enough to define the issues as not yet settled.

Ira Sharkansky is a professor (Emeritus) of the Department of Political Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

 

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