Time to turn off the money spigot to Netanyahu & Co.
Tom Maertens, Mankato Free Press
Posted: Friday, March 27, 2015 6:00 am
During the final days of Israel’s election campaign, Benjamin Netanyahu announced that there would be no Palestinian state if he were elected. He subsequently retracted the statement, but there is little doubt that it reflects his current policy; he has consistently approved Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank which will preclude a contiguous Palestinian state, the “two-state solution” that is a central element of US policy in the Middle East.
The U.S. has been calling the Israeli settlements “an obstacle to peace,” since the administration of Bush senior. Simultaneously, it has protected Israel, including from international sanctions over its mistreatment of the Palestinians, with its U.N. veto. This will likely be reassessed.
Additionally, the U.S. gives Israel more than $3 billion a year in aid, plus military technology, and helps pay for the rebuilding of Gaza after Israel’s periodic attacks.
Another result of the election is that Netanyahu will continue his de-facto alliance with congressional Republicans who are trying to sabotage P5+1 negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.
Netanyahu has been sounding the alarm since 1992, 23 years ago, when he said that Iran was 3 to 5 years away from a nuclear weapon. This is the same guy who said in 2002 that: “If you take out Saddam … I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region.” Israel’s position then and now, as Netanyahu said, was that the Iranian threat had to be “uprooted by an international front headed by the U.S.” In other words, the U.S. is supposed to attack Iran to defend Israel.
Hyping the Iran threat has become a virtual cottage industry. Ayatollah Khamenei opposes Israel and supports terrorism, but he has repeatedly and explicitly disavowed using force against Israel.
What he advocates is a referendum among Jews, Arabs and Christians that he believes would vote Israel out of existence, pointing to Israel’s jurisdiction over 4.5 million Arabs; 2.7 million of them live on the West Bank, and can neither vote nor obtain citizenship in the country where they live.
That’s not a democracy.
Iran’s nuclear program is mostly deep underground. Anything short of a nuclear attack would set the program back a few months, perhaps up to a year, but would not eliminate it.
In that regard, the journalist Seymour Hersh wrote in 2006, based on “U.S. sources,” that a strike on Iran was all but inevitable, and that there were even plans to employ tactical nuclear weapons. That’s not implausible when discussing the militantly pro-Israel neo-conservatives.
Their hard-line approach and Israeli objections have resulted in the U.S. turning down two settlement offers better than anything now available. In 2003, Iran proposed an agreement that would have provided broad access to its nuclear facilities, withdrawn Iranian support from Hamas and Hezbollah, and provided Iranian support for a two-state solution for Palestine.
In exchange, the U.S. would have ended sanctions, disbanded the anti-Teheran MEK, ended ‘Axis of Evil’ rhetoric, and re-established diplomatic relations. From 2003-05, Iran proposed to cap its centrifuges at very low levels, keep enrichment levels below weapons grade, and convert its existing enriched uranium into reactor fuel rods. The Bush administration vetoed that offer.
Subsequently, Iran went from 164 centrifuges to 19,000, accumulated more than 17,000 pounds of enriched uranium, and also enhanced its ability to produce weapons-grade plutonium. We are now attempting to close the barn door by capping Iran’s centrifuges at 6,000, which would require a major reduction.
Based on several years working on Iranian nuclear issues, I doubt there is any realistic way to stop Iran from building a nuke if — if — they decide to build one. The knowledge is 1940s technology and they have the capability to produce centrifuges and enrich uranium. But in 30 years, they have not built a bomb, probably because they fear that Sunni states like Saudi Arabia would follow suit.
The reality is that we will probably have to tolerate ambiguity about Iran’s nuclear intentions, but then, we tolerate nukes in the hands of a belligerent North Korea and an unstable Pakistan.
It is time to recognize another reality: Israel is a costly liability, a strategic millstone that compromises our interests and provides us virtually nothing in return.
For 50 years, we have subsidized what has become an apartheid state to the tune of roughly $140 billion. The “payoff” for that has been multiple oil embargoes, Islamic terrorism, and a client state which is becoming an international pariah.
It is time to cut the cord.
Tom Maertens served as National Security Council director for nonproliferation and homeland defense under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and as deputy coordinator for counterterrorism in the State Department during and after 9/11.