Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Who Benefits from the Iran Accord?

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Who Benefits from the Iran Accord?

Article excerpt

U.S. Hawks Ignore Top Israeli Official on Iran

On Jan. 18, Israel's top military official made some staggering comments during the course of a security conference in Tel Aviv. Here's how The Forward's J.J. Goldberg reported the comments of Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot, Israel's chief of staff, which seem as of yet to be unavailable in a full English translation from the original Hebrew:

Eisenkot said there were two "existential threats" to Israel, and both are currently "declining." One was the threat of nonconventional weaponry, including both Iran's nuclear program and Syrian chemical weapons...

First, he said Israel faces no existential threats right now, because Obama's Iran nuclear deal has removed the greatest threat to Israel's existence...

As for the Iranian nuclear agreement, he said it is "a strategic turning point" that includes "many risks but also opportunities."

These comments should be unremarkable, since Israel's security establishment has long given support, if cautious support, to diplomacy with Iran and the accord reached as a result. But Eisenkot's remarks are still worth pointing out because of the sad state of affairs in the American discourse about Iran.

The Silence of the Hawks

Take, for example, the many adherents of a right-wing pro-Israel worldview-including Washington's neoconservatives. They now dominate the Republican Party and make up a large, pro-Israel circle of hawks in the Democratic Party as well-both on Capitol Hill and beyond. What are the chances that this esteemed class of commentators, pundits and politicians will even begin to address the remarks that Eisenkot just made? Allow me this bold prediction: few if any will deign to address them at all. I'm guessing, for example, that this news item won't be linked in newsletters from neocon groups like The Israel Project and the Foreign Policy Initiative, which focus heavily on Iran and Israel matters. And I certainly can't imagine they'll appear in the neoconservative publications-Commentary, The Weekly Standard, and so on-that supply hawkish and Republican Washington with its talking points.

These groups, pundits and politicians have all roundly opposed the Iran nuclear deal, sometimes on the very grounds that it makes Israel less safe. Take, for example, Lindsey Graham, the trigger-happy South Carolina Republican senator, who said immediately after the Iran deal that it was "akin to declaring war on Sunni Arabs and Israel by the P5+1." That's right: he's saying that the deal was so bad for Israel's security that it was tantamount to America, the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany all declaring war against Israel! What will Graham have to say about Eisenkot's remarks? I'm guessing we'll never find out-he and his hawkish friends are unlikely ever to address it.

One might be able to forgive this hawkish constellation for taking the view they did: they were merely taking cues from Israel's right-wing government and its American lobbyists. "This agreement is not just bad for Israel, it's dangerous for the entire free world," said the right-wing Israeli official Danny Danon. "Giving the world's largest supporter of terrorism a free pass in developing nuclear weapons is like providing a pyromaniac with matches." (Of course, precisely zero nuclear experts think that this deal gives Iran a "free pass" to develop nuclear weapons, but never mind.)

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was just as blunt: "This is a very dangerous deal and it threatens all of us. …

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