ISRAEL, IRAN, & THE ‘PEACE PROCESS’: AS US ALIENATES EGYPT, ITS IRAN GAMBIT, THE N.Y.T. NOTWITHSTANDING, RISKS ALIENATING ISRAEL

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What a Nuclear Deal With Iran Could Look Like: Michael Singh, Washington Post, Oct. 18, 2013 With the first round of nuclear talks with Iran’s new, and newly pragmatic, negotiating team in the books, the Washington policy debate about Iran has shifted from whether a deal is possible to what sort of deal is acceptable.

 

How the New York Times Distorted Netanyahu's UN Speech: Alan Dershowitz, Haaretz, Oct. 2, 2013— Why is the American media trying so hard to present Iranian President Rohani's remarks in a positive light while bitterly criticizing Israeli PM Netanyahu's rational and compelling speech?

 

Israeli Officials Say Egypt Peace Treaty is Paramount Amid US Decision to Cut Cairo Aid: Herb Keinon, Michael Wilner, Ariel Ben Solomon, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 11, 2013— Jerusalem official expresses hope for restoration of normal relations between Egypt and America "as quickly as possible.”

 

A Second Chance to Strike First: Robert Fulford, National Post, Oct. 19, 2013 — As Israel faces down Iran, it remembers its nearly fatal error in 1973 – fearing American anger more than the enemy.

 

 

On Topic Links

 

As Iran Shifts, Hard-Liners See Threat to Battle Cry: Thomas ErdBrink, New York Times, Oct.18, 2013

France Covers Obama’s Middle East Retreat: John Vinocur, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 14, 2013

Yitzhak Rabin Was ‘Close to Stopping the Oslo Process’: David M. Weinberg, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 17th, 2013

Why Jordan Relies on Israel to Secure the Jordan Valley: Dan Diker, Real Clear World, Oct. 20, 2013

 

WHAT A NUCLEAR DEAL WITH IRAN COULD LOOK LIKE
Michael Singh

Washington Post, Oct. 18, 2013

 

With the first round of nuclear talks with Iran’s new, and newly pragmatic, negotiating team in the books, the Washington policy debate about Iran has shifted from whether a deal is possible to what sort of deal is acceptable. While such discussions can often seem a miasma of centrifuge counts and enrichment levels, there are, in fact, two distinct paths to a nuclear deal with Iran.

 

The first path is one in which Tehran would receive relief from sanctions in exchange for putting strict limits on its nuclear activities, such as restricting uranium enrichment to low levels. The success of such an agreement would depend on ensuring that Iran could not use declared nuclear activities as a cover for covert activities aimed at developing a nuclear weapon. It would also depend on ensuring that the deal was not easily reversible, so Tehran could not renege once pressure had been alleviated. There are ways that sanctions relief could be made more easily reversible — for example, channeling oil payments to Tehran through a single mechanism that could be blocked in the event of noncompliance — but none of these is fail-safe. The efficacy and durability of a deal over limited enrichment would rest on Iranian transparency. To be meaningful, transparency measures would have to include allowing inspectors unfettered access to sites of their choosing, not just those declared by Iranian officials, and a comprehensive accounting of Iran’s past and present nuclear work, including the military elements of its nuclear program, such as weaponization research.

 

Coming clean in this manner is a prerequisite for the success of any deal that leaves in place dual-use nuclear capabilities. Countries that have divulged their nuclear secrets, such as South Africa, have proceeded to cooperate peacefully with the international community on atomic energy. Those that continued to obfuscate despite agreements, such as North Korea, experienced deeper isolation and external tensions.

 

Iran appears to prefer the latter model. While its officials profess a desire for cooperation, they continue to dismiss as “unfounded allegations” evidence deemed “credible” by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran has engaged in nuclear work related to weapons. Iran continues to deny inspectors access to suspected nuclear sites and key personnel, and it seeks to constrict their activities within the bounds of its declared nuclear program…

 

The unlikelihood of a change of heart by Iranian leaders suggests a second, more straightforward path to an agreement: requiring Iran to dismantle its nuclear program in exchange for any relief from sanctions, which would be increased should Tehran refuse to yield. In this model, Iran would have to suspend enrichment- and reprocessing-related activities as demanded by the U.N. Security Council, dismantle its underground enrichment facility at Fordow and export its stockpiles of enriched uranium, among other steps.

 

The obvious objection to such a deal is that it may be too difficult to achieve; even U.S. negotiators have characterized this stance as “maximalist.” But any deal must be evaluated in comparison to plausible alternatives, not in isolation, and Iran’s alternatives are bleak. Iran’s economy is under severe strain because of the sanctions. If Iran tried to “break out” for a nuclear weapon, the United States and Israel have made clear that they would strike a devastating military blow.

 

And contrary to conventional wisdom, time is not on Iran’s side. With each passing day, Iran’s economic predicament deepens and its nuclear program expands. But while the former threatens Iran’s well-being, the latter does not improve it. Adding to its centrifuge inventory and uranium stockpile merely edges Iran closer to Western “red lines” while making it no less vulnerable to attack. The United States possesses powerful leverage in the nuclear talks: Its negotiating position is eminently reasonable. The West is offering Iran something it desperately needs — sanctions relief — in exchange for something it has little ostensible use for — enrichment and reprocessing — given its disavowal of nuclear weapons. That’s hardly a maximalist position.

 

It is commendable that the United States and its allies hope earnestly that Iran would take the path of true transparency and cooperation; indeed, President Hassan Rouhani’s “ charm offensive ” is so beguiling because it appeals to those hopes. But we, and perhaps even Rouhani, cannot compel Iran to make such a fundamental change in course. We can, however, with firmness at the negotiating table and confidence in our leverage make plain the alternatives and force Tehran to confront, rather than evade, the consequences of its choices.

 

Contents

HOW THE NEW YORK TIMES DISTORTED NETANYAHU’S SPEECH

Alan M. Dershowitz

Haaretz, Oct. 2, 2013

 

    I was in the General Assembly when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered his speech about Iranian President Hassan Rohani and Iran’s nuclear program. I heard a very different speech from the one described by The New York Times and other media. Not surprisingly, the Iranians described it as “inflammatory”. More surprisingly, The New York Times described Netanyahu’s speech as aggressive, combative, sarcastic and sabotaging diplomacy, while the only expert it quoted called the speech ineffective and pushing the limits of credibility.

 

What I heard in the Assembly bore little relationship either to the Iranian or the New York Times characterizations. What the people at the talk heard was a compellingly persuasive speech using Rohani’s own words to prove convincingly that his friendly smile is a cover for far more malignant intentions. Herein are a few excerpts not quoted in the Times report. First, with regard to Iran’s nuclear weapons program:

 

There are those who would readily agree to leave Iran with a residual capability to enrich uranium. I advise them to pay close attention to what Rouhani said in his speech to Iran's…Supreme Cultural Revolutionary Council. This was published in 2005. I quote: “A country that could enrich uranium to about 3.5 percent will also have the capability to enrich it to about 90 percent. Having fuel cycle capability virtually means that a country that possesses this capability is able to produce nuclear weapons." Precisely. This is why Iran's nuclear weapons program must be fully and verifiably dismantled. And this is why the pressure on Iran must continue.

 

Next, several statements Rohani made with regard to human rights, terrorism and constructive engagement:

Rohani spoke of, quote, "the human tragedy in Syria." Yet, Iran directly participates in Assad's murder and massacre of tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children in Syria. And that regime is propping up a Syrian regime that just used chemical weapons against its own people.

 

Finally, Netanyahu’s answer to Rohani’s assurance that his country does not engage in deceit and secrecy:

Last Friday Rohani assured us that in pursuit of its nuclear program, Iran – this is a quote – Iran has never chosen deceit and secrecy, never chosen deceit and secrecy. Well, in 2002 Iran was caught red-handed secretly building an underground centrifuge facility in Natanz. And then in 2009 Iran was again caught red-handed secretly building a huge underground nuclear facility for uranium enrichment in a mountain near Qom. Nor did Netanyahu reject diplomacy. Indeed he welcomed it, so long as the diplomatic solution “fully dismantles Iran’s nuclear weapons program and prevents it from having one in the future.”

 

The New York Times was particularly critical of Netanyahu's oft-repeated statement that if Iran were to be on the verge of developing nuclear weapons designed to wipe Israel off the map, “against such a threat Israel will have no choice but to defend itself.” But this statement reflects not only Israel’s longstanding policy but American policy as well. President Obama has told me, as he has told others, that Israel must reserve the right to take military action in defense of its own civilian population. It cannot be expected, any more than we can be expected, to outsource the ultimate obligation of every democracy to protect its citizens from nuclear attack. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, President John F. Kennedy made it clear that the United States would not accept nuclear weapons pointed at our cities from bases in Cuba. Does anybody really expect Israel to accept nuclear missiles directed at its cities and towns from an even more belligerent enemy sworn to its destruction?

 

Those of us who were in the General Assembly chamber to hear Netanyahu’s speech heard a rational call for diplomacy backed by sanctions and the ultimate threat of military force as a last resort. It heard the leader of America’s ally, Israel, carefully analyze the words and deeds of the leader of a nation that still describes the United States in the most bellicose of terms. It was one of the most compelling and effective speeches ever delivered at the United Nations. It should be read—or watched on YouTube—by every American, who should then compare what they have seen and heard with what the media told them was said.

 

Several media outlets misinterpreted President Rohani’s speech to make it sound far more acceptable than it would have been had it been correctly translated. The media claimed that Farsi is a difficult language to translate. There was no such excuse with regard with PM Netanyahu’s speech, which was delivered in crystal clear English. The distortion of the Israeli’s Prime Minister’s speech was a deliberate attempt to portray him in a less favorable manner than his actual words warranted. The question remains: Why would the American media bend over forwards to place Rohani in a positive light while bending over backwards to present Netanyahu in a negative light? Is it because we place our understandable hope for peace over the reality that difficult barriers that still exist? Is it because a “friendly” Iranian head of state is a more interesting story than a realistic Israeli head of state?

 

Whatever the reason, distorting reality is neither in the interest of good reporting nor in the interest of peace. If diplomacy is to succeed, it must be based on realpolitik and a hardnosed assessment of both our friends and our enemies. Judged against those standards, the media reporting on the Rohani and Netanyahu speeches did not meet the high standards rightly expected of American journalism.

 

Contents

 

                ISRAELI OFFICIALS SAY EGYPT PEACE                  TREATY PARAMOUNT AMID US DECISION TO CUT CAIRO AID

Herb Keinon, Michael Wilner, Ariel Ben Solomon

Jerusalem Post, Oct. 11, 2013

 

Jerusalem official expresses hope for restoration of normal relations between Egypt and America "as quickly as possible.” As tensions between the US and Egypt simmered over this week’s American decision to withhold aid to Cairo, Israeli officials said on Thursday that for Jerusalem, preserving Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt is paramount. Concerned by the outlook for human rights and democracy in Egypt, the US announced on Wednesday it would withhold deliveries of tanks, fighter aircraft, helicopters and missiles as well as hundreds of millions in cash aid.

 

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Office had no comment Thursday on the US decision, but an Israeli official said that the most important thing from an Israeli perspective was maintaining the peace treaty with Egypt that the US brokered and to which president Jimmy Carter was a witness. “The American support for Egypt was given in that context,” he said. Obviously, the official added, Israel understood that the US had its laws governing aid, “but we would hope there would be a way to restore normal relations between Egypt and America as quickly as possible.”

 

Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan voiced concern over the effects the decision might have on bilateral ties. “Certainly it can be confirmed that we had been troubled by how decisions of this kind were liable to be interpreted in Egypt, and of course the risk of consequences for relations with Israel,” Erdan said.

 

Former defense minister Labor MK Binyamin Ben- Eliezer, however, was uncharacteristically blunt in his criticism of the US, saying that the US was “essentially and unwittingly” working against its own interests.

“It must be understood that this region is so weak and in order to keep it stable, a superpower of some kind is required to safeguard it,” said Ben-Eliezer, who was considered close to deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Ben-Eliezer said that the US policy was of great concern to Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries, and that he could envision a situation where they would begin quiet talks with the Russians to secure their interests. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and one of his senior strategists, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, were in the United States when the decision to freeze some Egyptian aid was announced. Like other officials, Gilad hinted at Israel’s disappointment. “I try not to criticize our friends publicly,” he told an audience at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank…

 

The US will maintain military aid to Egypt tied by contracts with American defense firms, but will “continue to hold the delivery of certain large-scale military systems and cash assistance to the government pending credible progress toward an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government through free and fair elections,” Jen Psaki, State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement. The State Department clarified, however, that it would continue to give Egypt support for counterterrorism efforts in the Sinai Peninsula. At a State Department briefing, deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said, “We would never undertake any policy with Egypt that would put Israel’s security at risk.” She added, “We will continue the conversation with our Israeli friends about how to implement this going forward.”

 

The decision to curtail aid does not mean Washington is severing ties with the country, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday… “Large-scale systems” being withheld include F-16 fighter jets, M-181 tanks, Harpoon missiles and Apache helicopters, according to American administration officials. “We’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance,” one senior administration official said, in addition to the complete halt of $260 million in cash assistance to the interim government. “Most of the economic assistance” earmarked for civilian purposes and toward the private sector will continue, another aide said. “This decision just underscores that the United States will not support actions that undermine our principles,” the official said. “This is a way of expressing that.”…

 

Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty criticized the decision, saying that “Egypt will not surrender to American pressure” and assuring that it is “continuing its path towards democracy as set by the road map.” An Egyptian military source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the US decision came as no surprise and was expected, according to a report in Ahram Online… The US is viewed negatively by most Egyptians, so a cutoff in aid may serve to further unite Egyptians behind the army. According to a Tweet by the popular Egyptian blogger The Big Pharaoh, Sisi will be able to position himself as a victim of US pressure. He questioned why similar measures were not taken during Morsi’s rule, as he had used autocratic methods to increase his power…

 

The detainment of Morsi by the military has been condemned by the US as a “politicized arrest.” The State Department says the US has “determined not to make a determination” whether the event was a coup. US law would require aid be cut if such a determination were made. US Sen. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expressed support for the cut to Egypt’s military aid.

“Assistance to Egypt that supports these common goals should continue,” said Menendez. “But ongoing violence in Egypt is troubling, shows no signs of abating, and given these worrisome developments, a pause in assistance is appropriate until the Egyptian government demonstrates a willingness and capability to follow the road map toward a sustainable, inclusive and nonviolent transition to democracy.”

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A SECOND CHANCE TO STRIKE FIRST

Robert Fulford

National Post, Oct. 19, 2013

 

As Israel faces down Iran, it remembers its nearly fatal error in 1973 – fearing American anger more than the enemy. Every autumn Israel notes with sorrow the anniversary of the Yom Kippur War of 1973, a calamity that most of the world recalls as a marginal event, if we remember it all. For Israelis, it's lodged permanently in the national memory as the victory that felt more like a defeat. For many Israelis it's a piece of history that carries important lessons for the present. On Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, Egypt and Syria staged a surprise attack on Israeli positions. Backed by the Soviet Union, they were intent on avenging their defeat in the Six-Day War of 1967.

 

The Israelis turned them back and in about two weeks had troops fighting their way toward Cairo and Damascus. The fighting ended after 19 days with a UN-brokered peace – a relief to everyone who feared that the war might broaden into a U.S.-Soviet conflict. By then 2,656 Israelis had died in action. That's a figure no one wants to forget. This being the 40th anniversary of that war, it's stimulated even more discussion than usual. On Tuesday, during a commemoration of the Yom Kippur War at the Knesset, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it plain that he was thinking not only of the war in 1973 but also of Israel's current position and the possibility that bombing Iran's nuclear facilities might be necessary. Israel would remain vigilant with regard to its security and would not fall asleep on its watch, he said. The Yom Kippur War had taught Israel that a preventive strike is a possibility that should not be abandoned easily – "It should be weighed carefully as a viable option."

 

These events were the main subject at breakfast yesterday when Yossi Klein Halevi was explaining to a group of Canadians how an Israeli sees this difficult, often frustrating period. Halevi is  on a tour connected to his current book, Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation. He's a Brooklyn native whose journalism marks him as one of the most sensitive analysts of Israel. In 1973 many in the government, including Prime Minister Golda Meir, knew that Egyptian and Syrian armies were massing near the borders. Everyone knows something went wrong in the Yom Kippur war, Halevi said. The left has always believed it happened because Israelis grew arrogant after the Six-Day War and relied on their military strength when they should have worked toward an agreement with the Palestinians. This argument led to the Oslo peace process, a failure of hope on a grand scale. Those on the right have a different explanation: Israelis lowered their guard and forgot that they lived among nations that want Israel destroyed.

 

But there was something else, as Halevi pointed out. It was suspected at first, then later confirmed, that in 1973 many in the government, including Prime Minister Golda Meir, knew that Egyptian and Syrian armies were massing near the borders. There were other telltale signs: The families of Russian advisers and embassy staff had been flown out of Egypt and Syria. Meir decided against a pre-emptive strike, fearing a negative response from Washington. Public anger about the war effectively ended her government. A few months later she resigned.

 

Now, with the looming possibility of an Iranian nuclear bomb, Israelis face another danger of falling asleep. A pre-emptive strike is constantly debated. An attack on Iran's nuclear system might empower the Iranian opposition, re-igniting the Green Revolution. Israel's government believes that the Iranians have made so much progress that they must be stopped soon, perhaps in a matter of months. Israeli planners have been developing the idea of a strike for years. They believe they could hobble the Iranian project, delaying it for two or three years. What good would that do? It could result in grievous harm to Israel, by inviting rockets from Hezbollah and Hamas, which the Israeli missile defence systems might not be able to fully neutralize. But it could, Halevi suggested, lead to a change for the better. In the Middle East, two years are a long time, as everyone knows who has watched the Arab Spring turn into a springboard for despots. An attack on Iran's nuclear system might empower the Iranian opposition, re-igniting the Green Revolution.

 

Of course Barack Obama opposes an Israeli strike, but his diplomacy has made Israel particularly fearful. Israelis don't trust Obama. They don't like the way he moved into the current talks with Iran and can't see anything good coming from them. Halevi summarized a popular attitude: "Israelis believe the present talks are the result of Iranian deception and American exhaustion." Halevi had one other comment, "This is a devastating moment for Israel."

 

 

Contents

 

 

On Topic

 

 

As Iran Shifts, Hard-Liners See Threat to Battle Cry: Thomas ErdBrink, New York Times, Oct.18, 2013: With the believers pouring out of the Friday Prayer site in Tehran, Ali Akbar and his friends sprang into action, hastily spreading posters of the American flag on the asphalt and switching on their megaphone.

France Covers Obama’s Middle East Retreat: John Vinocur, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 14, 2013: In an interview with the Associated Press on Oct. 4, Barack Obama depicted Iran as a country living with sanctions "put in place because Iran had not been following international guidelines, and had behaved in ways that made a lot of people feel they were pursuing a nuclear weapon."

Yitzhak Rabin Was ‘Close to Stopping the Oslo Process’: David M. Weinberg, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 17th, 2013: The 18th anniversary of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s tragic assassination was marked this week with the usual palms and paeans to the Oslo diplomatic process that Rabin undertook.

Why Jordan Relies on Israel to Secure the Jordan Valley: Dan Diker, Real Clear World, Oct. 20, 2013: A report last week in Ma'ariv that fundamental disagreement between Palestinian and Israeli negotiators over the future of the Jordan Valley may soon collapse peace talks comes as no surprise to Middle East observers.

 

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