Tuesday, April 07, 2015

An Israeli moderate's breathtaking sense of entitlement

As the Netanyahu cabinet unites in full-voiced opposition to the framework agreement with Iran and gears up to pull its strings in the U.S. Congress, the relative sobriety of former head of Israeli military intelligence Amos Yadlin, who would have been defense minister if Zionist Camp had won the March 17 election, offers a sharp contrast.  Yadlin, a major general who was one of the pilots who bombed the Iraqi reactor in 1981, allows that compared to realistic alternatives, the framework is "not a bad agreement,"  Acknowledging in an interview with Al-Monitor's Ben Caspit  that the Iranians have adhered to the terms of the interim agreement, he offers this conditional support:
If they implement the principles of the agreement presented yesterday in the same way, then for the next 15 years they will be frozen at a point of being one year away from a nuclear bomb, and I think this is not a negligible achievement...Let’s think: After all, even a US attack will not distance Iran for 15 years from a nuclear bomb, so why not freeze it in place for the same time — without a war?
Give his relative pragmatism and moderation, the window that Yadlin opens on Israel's assumptions about the terms of the country's relations with the U.S. is all the more striking. If Netanyahu had been savvier, he suggests, he would be in position to influence the shape of the ultimate deal -- and brought home additional bacon for Israel. My emphasis below:

If we had a prime minister who knew how to talk to the Americans and enjoyed the president’s trust, this would have been the time to jump on the band wagon and demand clarification of all the points that require clarification. There are still things that can be achieved in this agreement. At the same time, this is the time to reach understandings with the Americans, and perhaps even to reach a parallel Israeli-US agreement, providing Israel with clarifications, assurances and perhaps even defense compensation for the risks it is taking. We did things like that after the peace agreement with Egypt and at different points in time, too.
So: an Israeli leader who acknowledges that the deal arrests Iran's ability to develop nuclear weapons more effectively than any real-world alternative also believes -- probably correctly -- that the U.S. might be induced to compensate Israel for not sabotaging it.

This is an agreement negotiated by the U.S. in concert with the world's major powers, adversaries as well as allies -- an agreement deemed by the current U.S. administration to be in its national interest, and by the governments of five other major world powers (three of them representing the EU) to be in their national interests, and the world's interest.  To the extent that the U.S. government appears divided over this agreement, it's only because Israel all but controls the U.S. Congress in matters that affect Israel's perceived security. And because of that longstanding and ever-more extreme interest, a pragmatic Israeli leader believes that the Israeli government can and should extort military aid in addition to the $3 billion in yearly tribute currently paid in return for Israel accepting "risks" that the speaker acknowledges are smaller than the risks entailed by scotching the deal -- and so,  magnanimously abstaining from sabotage.

The analogy with carrots provided to Israel for concluding its peace agreement with Egypt is also instructive. In that case, Israel was ceding territory that had historically served as an invasion route and entering a bilateral agreement with an enemy against whom it had recently been at war. That the U.S. had to "compensate" Israel at that point for negotiating its own security was a grim practical necessity. But the notion that Israel is owed (or rather, can extract) compensation for accepting an agreement to which it is not a party yet which the speaker agrees is in its own interests is pretty staggering. 

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