J Street undercuts Obama’s policy on Iran (JERUSALEM POST OP-ED) By ALAN M. DERSHOWITZ 06/15/12)
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US President Barack Obama recently invited me to the Oval Office for
a discussion about Iran.
The president reiterated to me in private what he had previously said
in public: namely, that he would not allow Iran to develop nuclear
weapons; that containment of a nuclear Iran was not an option; that
sanctions and diplomatic pressures would be applied and increased
first; but that, as a last recourse, the military option would not be
taken off the table.
What the president said is now the official American policy with
regard to the threat of a nuclear Iran.
It is clear that sanctions and diplomacy alone will not convince the
Iranian mullahs to halt their progress toward their goal of an Iran
with nuclear weapons.
The only realistic possibility of persuading the Iranians to give up
their nuclear ambitions is for them to believe that there is a
credible threat of an American military attack on their nuclear
Unless this threat is credible, the Iranians will persist. And if the
Iranians persist, and the Israelis do not believe that the American
threat is credible, the Israelis will undertake a military strike
against Iranian nuclear facilities.
It is crucial, therefore, for America’s military threat to be
credible and to be perceived as credible by both the Israelis and the
Enter J Street.
J Street is a lobby in Washington that advertises itself as “pro-
Israel and propeace.”
But its policy with regard to Iran is neither pro-Israel nor pro-
peace. It is categorically opposed to any “military strike against
Iran.” It is also opposed to maintaining any credible military threat
against Iran, through “legislation, authorizing, encouraging or in
other ways laying the ground work for the use of military force
This is according to its official policy statement that can be read
at http://jstreet.org/policy/policy-positions/ iran.
The lobby favors sanctions and it recognizes that “Iran obtaining
nuclear weapons would pose a very serious threat to America and
But it believe that diplomacy and sanctions alone can deter Iran from
developing nuclear weapons.
By advocating this path, it is totally undercutting the policy of the
Obama administration. It is sending a message to both Iran and Israel
that there is no credible military threat, and that if Iran is
prepared to withstand sanctions and diplomacy, it will have nothing
further to worry about if it moves forward with its nuclear weapons
The Obama administration has tried very hard to persuade Israel that
there is no space between the American position and the Israeli
position on Iran. Whether or not this is true, there is a hole the
size of a nuclear crater between Israel’s position, reflecting a
widespread consensus within that country, and J Street’s position.
Virtually every Israeli wants the United States to keep the military
option on the table. This includes “doves” such as President Shimon
Peres. Former United States president Bill Clinton also believes that
the military option must be maintained.
Virtually everyone, Israelis and Americans alike, hopes that the
military option will never have to be exercised. But the best way to
make sure that it will not have to be exercised is to keep it
As George Washington put it in his second inaugural speech: “To be
prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving
J Street, in addition to undercutting mainstream Israeli and American
policy toward Iran, has also mischaracterized the views of those it
cites in support of its benighted position. It cites former Mossad
chiefs Meir Dagan and Efraim Halevy as opposing any “military strike
against Iran.” It cites these two Israeli security experts in the
context of opposing an American strike and an American threat to
Yet Dagan has explicitly stated that he would favor keeping the
American military option on the table. This is what he has said: “The
military option must always be on the table, with regards to Iran,
but it must always be a last option.”
This is quite different from the misleading manner in which J Street
has characterized his views.
The same is true of Halevy. When I read the J Street reference to
Halevy, I immediately called him and told him how J Street had
characterized his views and asked him if that was a correct
His response: “That’s absolutely false.”
He told me that he had repeatedly stated that the United States must
keep the military option on the table as a last resort, though he
hoped that it would never have to be used.
J Street can no longer pretend to be pro-Israel, since it is actively
seeking to undercut a joint Israeli and American policy designed to
protect Israel and the world from a nuclear armed Iran.
Nor can J Street claim to be pro-peace, since its policy will likely
encourage Iran to take actions that will inevitably result in an
attack either by Israel, the United States or both. Finally, it
cannot be trusted to tell the truth, as evidenced by its deliberate
misattribution of its views to security experts that don’t share them.
Some people have accused J Street of carrying President Obama’s water
with regard to Israel and of having been “invented” to give the Obama
administration cover for taking tough policies with regard to Israeli
But in this instance, J Street is completely undercutting the Obama
That would not be so bad except for the fact that the Obama White
House sometimes seems to be embracing J Street and its followers.
This public embrace sends a message to Iran that the Obama
administration may not mean it when it says that it will use military
force if necessary to prevent a nuclear armed Iran. This may be a
false message, but it is a dangerous one nevertheless.
Absolutely no good has come from J Street’s soft policy on Iran.
Either J Street must change its policy, or truth in advertising
requires that it no longer proclaim itself a friend of Israel, a
friend of peace, a friend of truth, or a friend of the Obama
administration. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 06/15/12)
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