I am tired of the sound-bite ads supporting and opposing the Iran Nuclear Agreement, the political hype and the slanderous accusations (mostly but not exclusively coming from the right-wing) against good and honest people who care deeply about both America’s and Israel’s security and well-being.
I am not a scientist, nuclear physicist or a security expert. Israel and the United States have plenty of both and it is these people who I listen to when assessing the strengths and weaknesses of this P5 +1 negotiated Iran Nuclear Agreement.
Israel’s former security chiefs who are no longer bound to silence, as opposed to Israel’s current security chiefs who are (though have talked off the record in support of the agreement), and a number of Israeli and American nuclear scientists support this agreement. That is why I do as well, despite its flaws.
Here is the complete Haaretz op-ed by Carlo Stenger (if you have not called your congressional representative to voice your support for the agreement, now is the time to do so):
Dealing with Tehran is not a matter of ideology but rather carefully balanced probabilities. Israel’s current and former security chiefs know this.
Jewish Americans are going through a harrowing dilemma. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been calling the nuclear deal with Iran a mistake of historical proportions. He has made opposing it the shibboleth of whether you are a good Jew and a true friend of Israel, or whether you let Barack Obama throw Israel under the bus. So Netanyahu keeps repeating it: By cranking up sanctions even more, a better deal with Iran can be reached, but Obama and the P5+1 group have been weak and defeatist.
Netanyahu’s tactic has created enormous problems. He has dealt further blows to Israel’s relations with the United States, created deep rifts in the U.S. Jewish community, and worst of all, he has turned the discussion into whether you are for Israel or against it. He has turned it into good versus evil: Care about the Jewish people or be willing to let them perish in the next Holocaust.
The shrillness of the debate has made many forget that dealing with Iran is not a matter of ideology but rather carefully balanced probabilities. Get the best deal under the given circumstances, and the best deal isn’t a matter of rhetoric but careful calculation.
This is my call to U.S. Jewry. Turning the Iran deal into a partisan issue is about as wrongheaded as checking your doctor’s political convictions rather than credentials and experience. This is why it’s best to listen to top Israeli security officials, who have both the professional competence and dedication to care about what serves Israel best.
U.S. Jews might therefore wonder: Why are there no prominent Israeli voices supporting the Iran deal? Well, the noise has drowned out the fact that a phalanx of security chiefs has publicly supported the deal.
I’ll mention just a few. There’s former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, who heads a leading Israeli defense think tank — and who was one of the pilots who destroyed Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981. There’s Isaac Ben-Israel, a former weapons developments chief and current chairman of Israel’s space program. And there’s Ami Ayalon, a former head of Israel’s naval commandos and the Shin Bet security service, and Efraim Halevy, a former Mossad chief.
These men have spent most of their lives defending Israel; they are more competent than any politician to assess the security implications not only of the Iran deal but of the dire consequences of reneging on it.
Furthermore, as esteemed military analyst Amir Oren has reported in Haaretz, the majority of Israel’s serving military leaders disagree with Netanyahu’s position on the Iran deal. But as befits a democracy, officers in active service don’t take public positions. Senior security officials have expressed the same position to me on condition of anonymity.
The consensus on the Iran deal among security experts is very wide-ranging, and not only in Israel. I have just spent a number of days at the World Federation of Scientists’ annual meeting on planetary emergencies in Erice, Sicily, a group that I have been part of for 11 years. The Iran deal was discussed in depth, but not in the shrill tones of politicians trying to show how tough they are on Tehran. I heard experts who know the details of the deal to the last dot and have the intellectual tools to assess its viability.
Most prominent among them is Prof. Richard Garwin, one of the world’s leading nuclear scientists who with Edward Teller designed the first hydrogen bomb. Garwin, who has been an adviser to eight U.S. presidents on nuclear strategy, gave a presentation on the deal and came to a very clear conclusion: Under the current circumstances, this is as good a deal as we will get.
Let there be no mistake: Garwin has been dealing with situations in which humankind’s survival has been at stake; he by no means trusts the Iranian regime not to try to cheat. He gave very precise assessments on how the monitoring regime and the West’s technological means make it virtually impossible for Iran to surprise the West in the coming decade.
He has given me express permission to quote his speech, and I hope we will soon be able to upload it in its entirety. Let me add that Garwin is by no means a lone voice in this assessment but has been a leader of more than 70 nonproliferation experts who have endorsed the deal.
I have deep empathy for the plight of the U.S. Jewish community, which wants to stand by Israel in these difficult circumstances. Doing so means making up your own mind and not letting Netanyahu define for you what it means to be pro-Israel.
You should not forget that Israel’s security experts have no less an investment in Israel’s safety than Netanyahu, and that their expertise on the matter is superior to his. They have no political axes to grind but simply continue their work of keeping Israel secure. If all of them think the Iran deal is good for Israel, you can safely assume that it is and support it.