Bibi, the hunger artist

One of the highlights of the Geneva process that led to the signing of a nuclear agreement with Iran at the beginning of this week was the delicious irony of watching Bibi Netanyahu sniping from the sidelines.

Bibi, the consummate showman and rabid attention-hogger, doesn’t like being on the sidelines. Especially not when he has all the credentials to be in the thick of things. There they were, the members of the world’s most elite club – the nuclear nations – slapping each other’s backs and being tremendously important, while Bibi, for whom consorting with the rich and famous is like oxygen to normal people, was left at home.

The irony, of course, is that he had every right to be there. Geneva was like a meeting of the club’s selections committee, for which retaining exclusivity is the paramount concern. But Israel, with however many dozen warheads it has stashed away in the basement, is already a de facto member of the club. It has paid its dues. And, unlike Graucho Marx, we’re desperate to be a member of every club that will have us. Continue reading

Trying to balance triumph and tragedy

It seems to be de rigueur these days for liberals to temper their criticism of Israel with an equal volume of praise for the miracle in the desert – what New York Times columnist Tom Friedman calls “keeping several truths in tension in your head at the same time.”

In other words, if you criticize the occupation, the depredations of the settlers or the deliberate policy of stomping on any chance for peace, your critique needs to be balanced by an equal measure of praise for Israel’s vibrant civil society, dynamic democracy and so forth. Like the scales of justice, which must be in perpetual alignment.

Without such harmony, Friedman writes, you are peddling a fantasy about Israel. You are not giving a true picture of what the columnist describes as “one of the most amazing political experiments in modern history.” I’m happy the millions of Palestinians on the receiving end of Israeli rifle butts can now comfort themselves with the knowledge that it’s all a fantasy. Continue reading

Two peas in a nuclear pod

Iran is a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Article IV of the treaty refers to the ‘inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.’

As Roger Cohen pointed out in the New York Times this week, “Many non-nuclear countries, including Germany and Japan and Brazil, have interpreted this as a right to enrich uranium — and they have done so with the agreement of the international community.”

Israel is not a signatory to the treaty and it does not open its facilities to inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Besides which, Israel’s so-called policy of ambiguity regarding its possession of nuclear weapons is farcical. Everyone knows that it has weapons – and that’s exactly what Israel wants. Deterrence through ambiguity.

It seems very strange, then, that Iran is the country under sanction and enormous pressure to come clean on its nuclear capabilities, while Israel not only escapes the flack – it’s the kibitzer in the back seat; urging on the six powers negotiating with Iran to take even tougher measures against the regime of the ayatollahs. Israel, a non-signatory, is demanding of a signatory what the treaty itself doesn’t demand. Continue reading