The Republicans in Congress have been very clear in making public how much they claim that Israel is against the deal that President Obama is negotiating with Iran, to the extent of inviting Israel's president Benjamind Netanyahu to speaking about his disapproval to the House of Representatives. And the press has understandably reported this to its fullest.
Of course, this doesn't make it the opinion of "Israel" -- just that of Benjamin Netanyahu. And that may not necessarily be the same thing at all.
In fact, it's not.
Though it didn't get much attention here, in the vaunted "liberal press," last week Efraim Halevy wrote a bluntly critical op-ed in the Israeli press titled, "Obama was right, Iran capitulated."
By the way, just for the sake of information, from 1998-2002, Efraim Halevy was the head of Mossad -- Israel's version of the CIA.
Halevy's career in Israel is a significant one. Previous to heading Mossad, he was Israel's ambassador to the European Union. Additionally, he has also been head of Israel's National Security Council and was an advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. In fact, he was an envoy for five Israeli Prime Ministers. He originally joined Mossad in 1961 and served there for 28 years, and ultimately headed three different divisions of the intelligence service. And he's considered crucial to helping broker the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, to which he was signed under then-Prime Minister...Benjamin Netanyahu.
It's worth noting, in a touch of historic whimsy in the face of Mr. Netanyahu's recent unprecedented slap at American- diplomacy, Efraim Halevy wrote an article in 2010 about "Lessons in the Conduct of American-Israeli Relations," the former Mossad chief wrote --"Never, but NEVER surprise the president of the United States is a dictum I learned very quickly when entering the Mossad in 1961."
Gee, go figure.
As for his op-ed last week, the sub-heading is just as direct as its pointed title: "Netanyahu should accept the American offer of dialogue on the draft agreement reached in Lausanne, instead of signalling his intent to scupper it out of hand."
It's a very even-handed commentary, with Mr. Halevy, who generally has the reputation as a pragmatic moderate, opening by acknowledging the loopholes that exist, which need to be closed, the cursory nature of this early blueprint reached, the challenges of trusting Iran, and more.
"Nevertheless," he then states, "US President Barack Obama was right in labeling the document a "historic" one – and for the following reasons:
And he then explains not only how to deal with all that, but why other issues matter far more. And expresses them point after point after point -- seven detailed points in all.
He explains in his first point how for decades, Iran rejected every demand by the international community's demand to simply have any talks about its nuclear program -- so the simple fact that it finally agreed to do what it has for so long adamantly refused to do "proves that Tehran capitulated."
And he continues on, dissecting the deal from the eye and perspective of the person who was in charge of protecting Israel's security.
For his lat point, he notes that the speech President Obama gave that followed the singing of the framework agreement was broadcast live on Iranian state television. Moreover, it was done so with censorship or any breaks. This might seem normal to most Americans and therefore meaningless. But to the former head of Mossad, he explalins, "Never before, since the Islamic Revolution, has an American president been afforded such a stage, and on such a sensitive subject to boot."
He follows this by writing --
"And thus President Obama could say there is a historical dimension to the agreement that was reached. Anyone who has followed events in Iran in recent decades or has studied the matter has to admit truthfully that he never believed Iran would ever agree to discuss these issues, let alone agree to each of the clauses I have mentioned."
This from someone who has, indeed, "studied the matter" with deadly seriousness.
In the end, Halevy points out how naive it is, to the point of disingenuous for those like Mr. Netanyahu who insist on Iran to recognize Israel as a condition for them supporting any deal...and then he makes as clear in as polite, low-key but blistering way as possible that to keep pursuing this line suggests that their goal can mean war.
"Clearly, Iran is not going to change its spots," the former head of Mossad wrote. "Therefore, anyone who voices such a demand is signaling that he doesn't want the agreement and has his eyes on an aggressive solution."
It's a fascinating, thoughtful, very pointed, and easy to read commentary. And one, as I said, which has gotten next to no attention here. Just the showboating political follies of Congressional Republicans inviting Benjamin Netanyahu to break all diplomatic protocol -- and then follow it up with 47 senators breaking protocol even more egregiously by writing directly to the leader of Iran in the middle of negotiations, to the scathing disgrace of even much conservative press.
You can read Efraim Halevy's full op-ed here.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor