Sunday, August 11, 2013

The West Pretends not to See

by Dan Margalit

Everyone hears the sounds of Iran's centrifuges spinning down the path toward forbidden nuclear weapons, but the West is pretending not to notice.

Europe knows the magnitude of the danger, yet is not responding. While America is hoping that new winds are blowing in Tehran, the opposite may be true. New Iranian President Hasan Rouhani speaks sweetly, lulling the world's democracies to sleep. So what will stop Iran?

Let's do a quantitative comparison. How much time and energy has Europe invested in preventing the Islamic Republic of Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons? There are almost no indicators of such an investment. The same is true even in the U.S., where the level of fundamental concern about Iran is higher than in Europe. On the other hand, how much exhaustive effort has Europe invested in settling accounts with Israel (which soon will not be able to export goods from Judea and Samaria to the old continent)? This is truly Sisyphean harassment of Israel by Europe. 

Israel differs from the European Union's view that it must separate from territories across the Green Line to receive European funding for science. And even those who accept European pressure on Israel find it hard to understand why it is being applied now, at a time when Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have restarted and efforts are being made to build trust between the two sides. Is Europe knowingly and intentionally sabotaging the talks? 

If Israeli representatives are not able to dissuade European governments from boycotting settlement goods, there will be no choice but to come to terms with the EU's one-sided conduct. But why is the EU doing this now, as peace talks have gotten underway, and why isn't the EU making a distinction between the main settlement blocs (which will remain part of Israel in any case) and remote settlements and outposts? And, most importantly, how is this in line with the over-arching strategic need to thwart Iran's nuclear intentions (which threaten the future of humanity)? Israel is not asking these questions loudly. But Europe (and America) aren't answering with the type of language that is customary among friends. 

Israel did develop a military option against the Iranian nuclear program. Meir Dagan (then-Mossad chief), Yuval Diskin (then-Shin Bet chief) and, to a certain extent, Gabi Ashkenazi (then-Israel Defense Forces chief) banded together to thwart that option from being implemented. Did Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-Defense Minister Ehud Barak truly intend to send Israel Air Force planes to bomb Iran's nuclear sites? In my opinion, Netanyahu and Barak conducted successful diplomatic brinkmanship to get the West to implement painful economic sanctions on Iran, which are still burdening it today.

But memories of that old Israeli threat have passed. Netanyahu is trying to revive the threat by reminding the world of the military option he has at his disposal for use against Iran's nuclear program. International, Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Thursday that the Iranian nuclear program could be destroyed with "a few hours of airstrikes." I know there are others who have different opinions on that, but there is no reason that Israel should not use Steinitz's words to reunite the free world behind imposing deeper sanctions on Iran and threatening Iran's nuclear facilities with military action. 

Perhaps this will succeed, but Israel is reheating latkes that were frozen a year or two ago.

Dan Margalit


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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