From the Winter 2013-2014 issue ofJewish CurrentsWE ALL KNOW THAT BARACK OBAMA’S 2009 NOBEL PEACE PRIZE was less a recognition of any actual accomplishments than a sigh of enormous relief by the Nobel Committee that George W. Bush and his disastrous “preventive war” doctrine no longer ruled America the Superpower. Yet the recent peacemaking that Obama has been pursuing in concert with Secretary of State John Kerry — direct negotiations with the new Iranian government, and facilitated negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority — are of dramatic importance, and lend real credence to Nobel Committee chair Thorbjørn Jagland’s description of the Peace Prize as not a “belated stamp of approval” but an actual “instrument for peace in the world.”
In this editorial space, we’ve presented many strategic and moral arguments against resorting to military attack against Iran, and we’ve also quoted Shimon Peres’ statement from February 2012 urging the Iranian people — “a sensitive people that aspire for friendship and peace,” he said — not to “live as enemies” with Israel and not to allow “the flags of hostility to cast a dark shadow.” The election in Iran that brought the Rouhani government to power seemed an answer to the old Israeli politician’s prayer. Hamid Reza Jalaeipour, a Tehran University sociologist, called Iran’s 78 percent voter turn-out an “electoral uprising.”
Binyamin Netanyahu, however, has predictably treated that uprising as a non-event and expressed nothing but scorn for the interim agreement with Iran — while his yes-men in AIPAC have been organizing in Congress to undermine that agreement by stiffening the sanctions against Iran. At this writing, however, it looks unlikely that they will succeed, as there is simply too much international support for the negotiations and too much war-weariness among the American people. As the editors of the Middle East Research and Information Project wrote in their November 30, 2013 editorial, “Handshakes in Geneva,” the “thaw in U.S.-Iranian relations” can be safely seen as “a defeat for Netanyahu and the pro-Israel lobby, both of whom have worked assiduously for several years to push the White House toward mounting military strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities.”
IT IS A DEFEAT, AS WELL, FOR NETANYAHU’S CONSISTENT USE of the Iranian nuclear issue as a distraction from the undying issue of peace with the Palestinians of the West Bank. Here, too, other Israeli leaders are lending support to President Obama’s bid for peace, notwithstanding the disdain for it that Netanyahu showed in October by releasing twenty-six Palestinian prisoners, all of whom had killed Israelis, rather than freezing settlement expansion as a required “goodwill gesture” in the negotiations. In December, Yuval Diskin, the former head of the Shin Bet (Israeli intelligence) declared that the “implications of not solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict present a greater existential threat to Israel than the Iranian nuclear project,” and suggested that the current negotiations may be “the last opportunity to reach a two-state solution.” He called on Israeli leaders to visit and give talks in Ramallah, and to invite Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the Knesset. Diskin also warned of “the link between the Palestinians and their brothers, the Israeli Arabs. The concentration of fuel fumes in the air is such that even a small spark can cause a massive explosion.”
We urge the Obama government to continue its wise and stubborn quest for peace — and we urge progressive Jews to raise their voices in support of this now-or-never opportunity.