The concept of nations of the world gathering to discuss pressing issues important to individual countries and to ensure peace and security around the globe has proven useful since the United Nations began. One part of the world that is always a source of enmity is the Middle East, and after the so-called Arab Spring brought new leadership and burgeoning democracies in countries like Egypt and Libya, it is Israel and the threat of a nuclear Iran that are the biggest hurdles to peace in the region. It is safe to say that few nations are enamored with the thought of a nuclear Iran, and the world has expressed their displeasure with crippling economic sanctions that, by all accounts, are having a devastating effect on the Iranian people and the nation’s economy. It is unfortunate, but Israel does not seem to trust that sanctions are sufficient to dissuade the Iranian leadership from pursuing an atomic weapon, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his call for America to draw a line that, if crossed by Iran, will bring about a military strike to stop Iran’s nuclear program.
Netanyahu’s speech is his latest attempt to force President Obama to set “red lines” on Iran’s nuclear program, and thus far the Obama Administration has resisted Netanyahu’s commandment and still believes sanctions can pressure Iran to change course. The Israeli leader used a cartoonish drawing of a bomb to demonstrate how close, in his estimation, Iran was to constructing a nuclear device, and he said, “I believe that faced with a clear red line, Iran will back down. And this will give more time for sanctions and diplomacy to convince Iran to dismantle its nuclear weapons program altogether.” According to Netanyahu, setting a line will make war less likely and he warned that “it’s the failure to set red lines that invites aggression.” He did, however, acknowledge that American-backed sanctions have crippled Iran and had a devastating effect on their economy, but that they have not stopped their nuclear program. Regardless his recognition the sanctions are effective, he still gave the impression that the threat of a military strike was the only option available to stop Iran’s nuclear program they claim is for peaceful purposes.
What Netanyahu did not acknowledge is that a military strike will affect America more than Israel and drag this country into another, more dangerous, Middle East war. If Israel makes a unilateral strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, the Islamic Republic will strike American bases in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as American warships in the region prompting a response from American forces as retribution for killing Americans. America already pays a heavy financial price to be Israel’s ally, so it is selfish for Netanyahu to demand more from America in lives and resources for their reluctance to allow sanctions to work.
Netanyahu’s saber-rattling is nothing new, and it fits with his support for Willard Romney and his neo-con advisors as he runs for the presidency. Romney accuses President Obama of being too hard on Israel and not hard enough on Iran, and responded to Netanyahu’s remarks saying, “I, like the rest of the American people, applaud the bravery of the people of Israel and stand with them in these dangerous times.” Romney also promised that if he is president, “I’d get on the phone to my friend Bibi Netanyahu and say, ‘Would it help if I said this? What would you like me to say and do?” Netanyahu has already said what he wants America to do, and it is attack Iran, and it contradicts the rest of his speech to the United Nations.
The Israeli leader extolled the virtues of ancient Jewish traditions and said the Jewish people “have been at the forefront of the efforts to expand liberty, promote equality, and advance human rights.” He cited the words of Jewish prophets Isaiah, Amos, and Jeremiah and said his people heed their exhortations to “treat all with dignity and compassion, to pursue justice, cherish life, and to pray and strive for peace. These are the timeless values of my people, and these are the Jewish people’s greatest gifts to mankind.” It is unfortunate that those timeless values and great gifts have not been extended to Palestinians who, like Israel, deserve a homeland that is safe from occupying forces and expanding settlements.
Although there are cultural and religious differences that keep Israel and Iran, and many other Arab countries, from enjoying peace, it is Israel’s refusal to work for a two-state solution that is a major cause of enmity between Arabs and the state of Israel. Despite negotiations to bring a final settlement to give Palestinians a homeland, 60% of the West Bank is under full Israeli control and they persist in displacing Palestinians, and in effect, preventing them from living with “dignity and compassion or to cherish life and strive for peace.” The current Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and former Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, said they had been on the verge of a sweeping deal that would have brought a two-state solution when Olmert was replaced by Netanyahu in 2008 that seems to have ended any chance of a final settlement, and an easing of tensions between Israel and the rest of the Arab world.
There is no doubt whatsoever that a nuclear Iran is a danger to the region, or that America will always defend Israel. However, Netanyahu is disingenuous in threatening to attack Iran over development of a nuclear weapon when Israel has a nuclear arsenal of its own. The Israelis are fearful Iran will develop a nuclear weapon, but Iranians know Israel has a nuclear arsenal, and Israel could help themselves by alleviating tensions if they would just work to give Palestinians what the world provided for the Jews; a homeland.
It is time for Israel to prove they “treat all with dignity and compassion and strive for peace” instead of threatening to strike Iran or continue displacing Palestinians. The Iranians claim their nuclear ambitions are for peaceful purposes, and although they have threatened the state of Israel, it may be that they see no other solution to a nuclear-armed enemy that cannot extend to Palestinians what the world provided to them. America provides for 21% of Israel’s defense budget, and promises to defend them against aggression regardless if they launch a unilateral pre-emptive strike or not, and it is time for Israel to give something in return; not to America, but to the Palestinian people and maybe, just maybe, it will ease tensions in the Arab world and give Iran pause that Israel truly does “treat all with dignity and compassion;” because the alternative is certainly another Middle East war that Americans will fight, die, and pay for that seems destined to be America’s greatest gift to the Israeli people.