US Secretary of State John Kerry, obviously quite edgy and piqued, took several swipes in swift succession at Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in recent days. Among others, he carped that Netanyahu has no right to criticize the negotiations with Iran, as he doesn’t know enough about the details of the proposals discussed.
“I am not sure that the Prime Minister, whom I have a lot of respect for, knows what the conditions were, because we had not yet agreed on them” Kerry asserted in an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press last Sunday. “That is what we are discussing.”
Netanyahu’s rebuttal was prompt: “I am up to date on the details of the proposal for the Iranians, and what is proposed at the moment is a deal in which Iran does not regress in its nuclear capabilities, and as opposed to that – the sanctions are taken back. It is a bad and dangerous deal and it will not happen on my watch. You know what happened when the Jews were silent.”
But how much Netanyahu actually knows or doesn’t, is only one aspect of the matter – and not necessarily the central one.
Inexplicably, lost in this verbal ping-pong between Washington and Jerusalem is the very critical moral core of the entire process. Regardless of Kerry’s surly grumbles about Israel’s purported “fear tactics” (to which he vowed not to give in), there’s no disputing that Israel is the country most deeply and directly affected by his overtures to Iran.
It would take extraordinary obfuscation and/or self-delusion to deny that Israel is exceptionally endangered by Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Even the International Atomic Energy Agency doesn’t buy the Iranian cover-story about a totally civilian nuclear program.
Iran’s ayatollahs, and the various heads of government they installed in Tehran, have all proclaimed their desire to wipe Israel off the map. That would mean that Israel has the most to lose from the American gamble that Kerry is currently engaged in. For Israel this isn’t just another expedient gambit. Israel very existence, in the most literal of senses, is on the line.
With that in mind, the very notion of keeping Israel out of the loop is morally flawed in the extreme. It speaks to Kerry’s inconceivable insensitivity that he would even admit that he is not fully informing the head of government of the state most at risk in this context.
But Kerry not only made the curious public admission, he even flaunted it pugnaciously. And why did he do so? He could achieve nothing but make a churlish point. Is this really the way for the top diplomat of world’s only superpower to conduct business, especially vis-à-vis an unshakably steadfast ally like Israel?
Is it right to keep in the dark a fellow democracy – and an embattled one at that, whose very survival is at stake?
If Kerry’s answer is in the affirmative, and clearly from his confrontational pronouncements it very much is, then there most certainly is something very basically off in the moral compass by which he presumably charts his course.
Even if we give Kerry abundant benefit of the doubt and agree to assume that he had misspoken in his NBC appearance and on previous occasions when he similarly expressed himself, on Monday he honed the message further at a press conference he held in Abu Dhabi, where he stressed that “Netanyahu has to understand that no agreement was signed between Iran and the world powers and his adamant objections are premature.”
This furnishes us further insight into the logic by which Kerry apparently operates. According to his perception, Israel is not entitled to voice any reservations and misgivings about whatever transaction is being concocted in Geneva until it is a done deal or, in the language spoken locally, a fait accompli.
Surely Kerry must realize that by then – by the time exceedingly vulnerable Israel is faced with a fait accompli – it would be too late to preempt or mitigate the ill-effects of any agreement, even if it’s very bad, even if it’s the worst possible.