Benjamin Netanyahu survived a pretty good scare last week to hold on to Israel’s premiership in an election that may be one of the turning points in not only Israeli history, but America’s and the world’s, too.
President Obama, I’m sure, would have been much happier if the other guy’s party had won, but Israeli voters (who turned out at a 72 percent rate, far better than our 54.9 percent rate in 2012), are just about as ideologically split as we are at home. One should wonder if the apparent success of Netanyahu’s turn to the hard right will encourage Republicans to try the same when the pick their pick for president next year. They might, as there’s little more exciting than the rush of acting on what you suppose to be your ideological purity, but their results might not be the same as Bibi’s. While I am far from expert on Israeli politics, I see a bit of similarity between the GOP and Likud: both are good at pointing at “the other” (Palestinians, Iranians, Israeli Arabs, “the 47 percent,” liberals, undocumented immigrants) as the source of all the problems. Division favored far more than reconciliation; fear over hope.
As the editor of the Woodstock Times is fond of saying, there’s always another election. Obama may sting from the rebuke, but he’s got to shake it off and wrap up before an apparent March 31 deadline a multi-national deal with Iran in regards to the Islamic republic’s nuclear weapons. Netanyahu, in that speech to Congress you may have heard something about, argued that any deal is probably a bad one — Iran can’t be trusted, he said, positioning himself as the warily wise Winston Churchill to Obama’s cravenly callow Neville Chamberlain. But the American people, if not the Israeli, are with Obama on this one: a CNN poll this week found two-thirds of Americans in favor of negotiating a deal with Iran.
Good thing, too. It could be Iran is doing exactly what Netanyahu says it is — playing “hide and cheat,” putting together a bomb on the sly while saying what it needs to say to get sanctions lifted. If so, then shame on them. Their people will be the losers and everyone in the world will be affected by the shadow cast by a much more dangerous Middle East.
But think about it — do we, the U.S. and Israel, have the capability of stopping a bomb by military means? Sure, we could bomb and bomb and bomb, but Iran’s a big country and even the most bunker-busting of bombs can only reach so far. Go in and do an Iraq by removing the ayatollahs? Please — Iran has more than twice the population of Iraq and about four times the territory. Imposing an effective occupation (which we failed to do in both Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the trillions of dollars and thousands of lives lost) on a country that size would be impossible. If we or Israel did start bombing and Iran did develop a nuke anyway, would they be particularly discouraged from using the thing?
No, as hard as it seems, the only alternative that works in the real world is negotiation. Let’s hope the Iranians are smart and realize they’re better off without the bomb than with, and that the pain of low oil prices plus sanctions has gotten to the point where they’re ready to make, and stick to, a deal. The other way, the path of mutual mistrust and the finger on the button, is too heinous to contemplate.