J Street Undercuts Obama Policy on Iran (GateStone Institute) by Alan M. Dershowitz 06/14/12)
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President 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
facilities. 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 Iranians.
Enter J Street. J Street is a lobby in Washington that advertises
itself as "pro-Israel and pro-peace." 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 against Iran."
This is according to their official policy statement that can be read
at http://jstreet.org/policy/policy-positions/iran. They favor
sanctions and they recognize that "Iran obtaining nuclear weapons
would pose a very serious threat to America and Israeli interests."
But they believe that diplomacy and sanctions alone can deter Iran
from developing nuclear weapons. By advocating this path, they are
totally undercutting the policy of the Obama Administration. They are
sending a message both to Iran and to Israel that there is no
credible military threat, and that if Iran is prepared to withstand
sanctions and diplomacy, they will have nothing further to worry
about if they move forward with their nuclear weapons program.
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 Israeli President
Shimon Peres. Former United States President Bill Clinton also
believes that the military option must be maintained. Virtually
everyone, Israelis and Americans alike, hope 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 credible. As George
Washington put in his second inaugural speech: "To be prepared for
war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace."
J Street, in addition to undercutting both 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 security Israeli security
experts in the context of opposing an American strike and an American
threat to strike. 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 Efraim 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 characterization. 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
settlement activity. But in this instance, J Street is completely
undercutting the Obama policy. 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
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