America’s choice on Iran: Obama’s peace or Netanyahu’s war

If Bibi, the Israel lobby and the GOP stymie this historic nuclear deal, it will be very bad for Israel, America and America’s Jews.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at their joint press conference in Jerusalem (photo: Koby Gidon / Government Press Office)
U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a joint press conference in Jerusalem. (photo: Koby Gidon / Government Press Office)

Anybody who thinks Obama has won, that Israel and the Israel lobby and the Republicans are just going to concede the Iran nuclear deal without a fight, could not be more wrong. For the Israeli and American Jews involved, this is the supreme cause of their lives – preventing another Holocaust, as they see it. The framework agreement announced last Thursday looks to them like Munich. These are the terms they use.

For the American gentile politicians involved, it’s partly this badly misplaced notion of “never again,” partly (for the Republicans) Obamaphobia, partly Islamophobia, and partly fear of the Israel lobby’s wrath if they let Obama and the Iranians sign a final deal, whose deadline is June 30, three months from now. All in all, the deal’s opponents have more than enough motivation to ensure that so long as there’s the slightest chance to head it off, they will be fighting with everything they’ve got.

And they’ve got much more than the slightest chance. The Republicans are pushing a Senate bill that would effectively give America’s last word on the deal to the GOP-controlled Congress, which would guarantee the setting of terms that Iran would  never accept, and the negotiations would collapse. Obama has promised to veto this bill and any other designed to kill the Iran deal, but if 67 senators sign this legislation, it becomes veto-proof. The Republicans reportedly have 66 senators committed to signing it.

I don’t think they will get to 67; instead, I think Obama will peel off some of the bill’s Democratic supporters because he is the president; because this is his “legacy” achievement and he and his supporters want it awfully bad; because this is a matter of war and peace; and because the Iran deal is very popular with everyone outside the Republicans, Israel, the Israel lobby and Iran’s Middle East enemies such as Saudi Arabia. So in the end, I’m betting that the deal will be done, and it will make the world a better place. But it’s not a sure thing by any means.

The engine behind the deal’s Republican-led opposition is Netanyahu and the Israel lobby. The top story in Sunday’s Jerusalem Post begins:

“Jerusalem will use the next three months until the June 30 Iranian nuclear deal deadline to argue forcefully against many of its provisions, specifically that it allows Iran’s massive nuclear infrastructure to remain in place, according to a senior government official.”

As if anyone had any doubt.

The most aggressive of the Israel lobby’s outfits, neocon William Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel, stated after the framework agreement was announced:

“The Emergency Committee for Israel expects that every member of Congress will do his duty and act to kill this proposed deal. … No friend of Israel can support it.”

The lobby’s two most prestigious organizations, AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, reacted like their typical smarmy selves, claiming they didn’t oppose a nuclear deal, just that they wanted a “good” deal, which could best be accomplished by letting Congress oversee the negotiations, increasing sanctions on Iran, confronting Iran in Yemen, Syria and Gaza, etc.

This is going to be a very rough, dirty three-month campaign in America. Nobody likes being called an appeaser, a supporter of Munich, a traitor, an enabler of a second Holocaust, or even just a weakling and a coward. It’s going to be particularly harsh and divisive for American Jews, who are already split between the laid-back, pro-Obama dovish majority and the obsessed, Obama-hating, Bibi-adoring hawkish minority.

I hope the Dems and the liberal Jewish leadership fight like hell, and by that I mean make the hawks bleed. Netanyahu, the lobby and the Republicans are lying about wanting a diplomatic solution; nobody believes in trying diplomacy with people they think of as Nazis bent on getting the Bomb. Instead, the hawks want to force the Obama administration to offer impossible terms to Iran so Iran will turn them down, quit the negotiations and go back to where it is now: with a “breakout time” of only two to three months, meaning the time it would take the Iranians to enrich enough weapons-grade uranium to assemble a nuclear bomb, if they decided to do so. This would leave the U.S. no choice but to attack Iran – either by acting alone or with Israel – seeing as how Obama, backed by just about every other world leader, has pledged to do whatever’s necessary to prevent Iran from building nukes.

If Bibi, the lobby and the GOP succeed in stymieing this historic, breakthrough deal, the Democrats and the rest of the world will never forget the decisive role Israel played. If the collapse of negotiations leads to an American war with Iran — what could be the first in a series of them — even the Republicans won’t forgive Israel. It will be remembered as “Bibi’s war.” It would reach Israel, too, via Hezbollah and its 100,000 missiles and rockets. The lost chance at peace, the war and the fallout from it would be very bad for America, for Israel, and for America’s Jews. And so the fight is on for “Obama’s peace.”

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