Living in Israel, I was struck by the contrast of hardheaded realists, who made careful assessment of on-the-ground conditions, and the luftmenschen, dreamers whose starry gaze was admirable, but misguided. This spectrum of debate appeared everywhere, from kibbutz dining room rules to security protocols.
Those who oppose the Iran deal are the luftmenschen, allowing themselves to be swept away by emotion and lofty rhetoric. It is fantasy to believe further sanctions will weaken Iran to the extent where a better deal could be negotiated. President Obama put together a strong coalition of
sanctions with the P5+1 countries with the goal of bringing Iran to the negotiating table. Now that several years of negotiations have concluded, it is highly unlikely the other countries would continue the current level of sanctions. With a failed deal, Iranian leaders would draw the conclusion that America is insincere about ending hostilities and proceed unchecked to build a bomb — in perhaps just three months, by some estimates.
Moreover, calling for further sanctions has little merit. Sanctions did little to change the Castro regime in Cuba in 1964, to overthrow the North Korean regime in 1993, or to push Saddam Hussein out of power peacefully in Iraq in 2000. As an IDF soldier who did reserve duty in the West Bank, I saw the limits of what can be achieved through threats and intimidation. Engagement has far greater potential to resolve conflicts than saber rattling.
This deal is not without risks, but it significantly reduces the chances of Iran becoming a nuclear threat for 15 years. During the Cold War, the U.S. entered into the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia. Even though the Soviets were not being good international actors, the treaty was regarded as desirable on both sides, because it was in everyone’s interest to have fewer nuke-carrying missiles in the world.
Israel’s long-term safety is paramount to me, which is why we need to heed a growing cohort of Israeli and international experts to see that this deal is given the best chance for success. The luftmenschen have their time and place, but with an issue as serious as Israel’s security we need to keep our feet firmly on the ground.
Legend has it that in the 1950s, at the height of the Cold War, a flock of Canada geese showed up on U.S. radar screens above the Arctic Circle. Nervous technicians interpreted the blips as incoming Soviet bombers and were poised to press the button that could have destroyed the Soviet Union. Thankfully, the U.S. and the Soviet Union had an unofficial telephone line for such situations, and disaster was averted. This relationship between the two superpowers, albeit a strained one, prevented Armageddon.
The same cannot be said for the relationship between Washington, D.C., and Tehran. If the P5+1 deal with Iran ultimately disintegrates because the Iranians cheat, and we reach a point where another disaster is looming, who will be on the receiving end in Tehran to pick up the phone?
Iran today, without nuclear weapons, is already a menace, as demonstrated by its role in the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires, its support for Hezbollah attacks on Jews and Israelis around the world, and its direct interference in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, and other countries. Iran with nuclear weapons would make it even more of a threat to the peace of the world.
For more than 100 years, AJC has been the global advocate for the Jewish people. We are in constant communication with world leaders and far-flung Jewish communities. The prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran affects not just the Jewish world, but all people. While a nuclear warhead may not be launched toward Israel or Europe tomorrow, the prospect of Iran possessing the ability to do so will surely change the balance of power in the region in a way unfavorable to the West. Iran will become the bully on the playground with the biggest stick. After extensive conversations with U.S. and world leaders, including those in Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf Cooperation Council, AJC reached its conclusion: life on the playground is terrifying.
AJC, which world Jewry looks to as its global advocate, recognizes that this is a bad deal, and urges that the administration seek to renegotiate its most objectionable features. But whatever the fate of this agreement, AJC will remain vigilant in defense of the Jewish people and democratic values worldwide.