On the Iran deal and Israeli psychology.
On May 12th 2018, it is absolutely inexcusable for any informed person to be a supporter of the US republican party, or the current administration. The sheer magnitude of the disaster they have created is hard to fathom. To put it in perspective; at this point it is pretty fair to say that you could pick a week at random of the Trump presidency, and there will have been more screw-ups, terrible decisions, ethical lapses, and blatant deception than in all eight years of the Obama administration. I say that with not an ounce of hyperbole. If you are still drinking the kool-aid than you are either uniformed, insulated in the right wing propaganda world (Fox News and Facebook), or you have some financial interest (deregulation), keeping you on the sinking ship. While I could write an encyclopedia on this particular topic, the only point I am trying to make here is that I have only contempt for the current US right-wing.
Conversely, one thing I have said to right-wing people in Israel (basically people outside Tel Aviv) is that while I fundamentally disagree with most of what you believe, I can definitely sympathize with your position. The history of the Jewish people and the history of Israel mean that you trust no-one, and will do whatever it takes to ensure your own survival. I get this and I understand why to a group of people who are surrounded by mortal enemies, a right wing narrative is comforting. I don’t even really fault people for electing a tough-talking fear-mongerer like Bibi whose flaws are forgotten in the heat of constant conflict. To be clear again, I still find the views and actions of the Israeli right-wing and government morally abhorrent and absolutely contrary to the common good, but I don’t hold the average Israeli in contempt for holding them.
That said, the recent events surrounding the Iran nuclear deal have illuminated part of why I find this country so damn frustrating. In my humble opinion, the US leaving the Iran nuclear deal is one of the worst single decisions we have made since I became conscious. Most of the world agrees with this this sentiment, with only the US alt-right and the state of Israel disagreeing. In my office, I have educated, sharp folks supporting Trump in this insane decision. Bibi has been against the agreement since the beginning, and thanks to the close and controlled relationship between Israeli government and media, the average person here has a negative impression of the deal. So in trying to understand what to me was an absurd point of view, I asked a bunch of co-workers why they were happy about Trump’s views. What follows is my summary of the main points Israelis are making, and why they make no sense:
(sources all at the bottom)
“It’s a bad deal”
This seems to be the Trump admin line of attack and is by far the most infuriating. The idea is that the deal does not achieve peace. Iran still can and is sponsoring terrorism in the region, testing and deploying ICBMs (which would carry a nuclear weapon if it existed), threatening Israel, and will still be able to get nukes in ten years when the deal expires. To the credit of those who espouse this view, it is basically true on all accounts. The problem is that it is not a proper criticism of the deal itself. It is incorrect to compare the deal we got with the best deal for the west and Israel. It is correct to compare the deal to the status quo before 2015 and in this the answer is clear. A world where Iran is blocked until 2026 from developing nuclear weapons is a better world for everyone. A world where international inspectors can get access to any suspected site in Iran is a good one. A world where we don’t have nuclear proliferation in the Middle East because Iran has a nuke is better for everyone.
Before this deal which took years to agree to, there was no deal at all. This idea that Trump and Bibi are now going to get some better deal now is a joke. Plus, even if Bibi and Trump woke up in the morning with legit ambitions for peace (unlikely), you have just completely squashed any moral authority the US has in the world to make agreements. We are now irreversibly going to be assumed to be negotiating in bad faith. The world has absolutely no reason to let the US take a leadership role and that is very bad for our national security. In every negotiation going forward, including the upcoming talks with North Korea, China, Russia, and the EU will play the critical leadership roles.
“Iran is not complying with the deal.”
This is the most easily disproven point. The International Atomic Energy Agency have filed continuous quarterly reports which all show Iran to be in compliance with the terms of the agreement. Furthermore, all members of the agreement (US, China, Russia, France, Germany, and the UK), all agree with this assessment. Just to reiterate, Trump’s own state department has certified compliance on all sides. Trump’s defense secretary James Mattis said “I’ve read it now three times … and I will say that it is written almost with an assumption that Iran would try to cheat. So the verification, what is in there, is actually pretty robust as far as our intrusive ability” This means we are giving up the unprecedented ability to inspect and monitor every single Iran nuclear site and get access to other sites if we believe Iran to be cheating on the arrangement. Even Mossad agrees with this assessment.
“…but Bibi told us it we stole new information which shows they are cheating!”
The context here is that a few days before Trump was to make his decision, Bibi went on national television and gave a powerpoint presentation of 55,000 documents that he claims were stolen from Iran’s Atomic Energy vaults a few weeks ago and prove conclusively that Iran lied. Except that was all basically baloney. The documents are mainly from 1999-2003 and show information that was already known by all nations involved. No smoking gun is presented nor ay conclusive reason to pull out of the deal.
Ignoring the shame of a world leader basically lying to his people in order to get a malleable American president to follow his agenda, the interesting question for me is why Israeli’s are not seeing through this like the rest of the world. The Israeli media was significantly less critical of this farce than the rest of the world, and from my (limited) conversations, the Israeli people seem to have bought it to some degree. They make this point and the other points above and when pushed on the illogical stance they have taken just devolve into whatabouttisms and strawmans. This was one particular example, but this is a toxic issue that seems to have hit every aspect of Israeli politics.
The summary of all of this is basically that Israel has me worried about the state of the world. The blatant disregard for the truth no matter how absurd the local narrative is, and the willingness to believe only Israeli media and sources extends to all types of people. When educated folks are making decisions from the gut, we should all be worried.
That’s all… Sorry not a fun post but sometimes I just need to vent.