Natanzyahu Is Responsible

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must take responsibility for his abject failure to exert any influence on the Iranian nuclear program talks.

Amir Oren
Amir Oren
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Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister during a joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., March 3, 2015.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister during a joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., March 3, 2015.Credit: Bloomberg
Amir Oren
Amir Oren

No, the headline is not a typo: “Natanzyahu” is a combination of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Natanz, Iran’s primary nuclear facility and the symbol of the absolute failure of his battle against the Iranian nuclear program – a failure for which he is totally responsible.

It was his personal battle and he chose how to wage it: By confronting U.S. President Barack Obama and by rejecting the proposal by the defense establishment to focus on a demand to include within the agreement an Iranian renunciation of any intent to destroy Israel. Did anyone stop him from making this demand – which was also raised in the media – the central point of his congressional address? He was defeated, and he ought to draw the correct conclusion regardless of the election results, just as Golda Meir did after the Yom Kippur War or Menachem Begin after the entanglement in Lebanon.

Netanyahu can learn a lot about responsibility from one of the organizations he has been goading, in vain, to act against Iran – the U.S. military. Last week, the destroyers USS Laboon and USS Ross docked in Haifa Port, armed with sea-to-surface Tomahawk missiles and sea-to-sea Harpoon missiles. Each ship carries 300 officers and sailors, each away from home for five to nine months. Laboon’s chief, Commander Christopher M. McCallum, was previously head planner of the joint exercises held by the Israel Defense Forces and the U.S. European command, EUCOM, to deal with defending Israel from Iranian missiles.

McCallum was asked how a commanding officer like himself, who inevitably cannot know what is happening in every place and at every moment on his vessel, felt about the tough U.S. Navy tradition of dumping commanders at a murderous pace – at least once a month, a commanding officer of a vessel, squadron or base is dismissed because of “loss of confidence” in his or her ability to command. The process is brutal: the decision to relieve a commander is executed immediately, that same day, even if the officer was scheduled to be transferred the following week, with no grace period.

McCallum, who has been in the U.S. Navy for 19 years and is a year off retirement with a monthly pension that’s half his salary, smiled pleasantly and replied, “Accountability.”

That’s what they taught him, and he accepts the fact that the commander is accountable for everything. He must give an accounting for what happens on his vessel. If a sailor on the edge of the ship suddenly slips and falls overboard, it’s a sign that the commander didn’t train him properly – all the more so if the captain ignores storm warnings and plows his ship into a sandbank.

Netanyahu continues a legacy of shortsightedness. His ideological ancestors objected to the Partition Plan and imagined a takeover of the east bank of the Jordan River. After Egypt sank the Israeli destroyer Eilat in October 1967, Israel took revenge by destroying towns along the Suez Canal and foiling a process to restore shipping through the canal – a financial incentive that might have helped prevent the War of Attrition and, later on, the crossing of the canal in October 1973.

The removal of financial and trade sanctions on Iran will give tens of millions of Iranians an interest in freezing Tehran’s military nuclear plans. They will not want to give up an increasingly better life over the next decade, just like the Americans and Israelis aren’t eager to fight and be killed. Chances will increase that the Hassan Rohani school of thought will prevail over that of Gen. Qassem Suleimani of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards.

The demand to condition the nuclear agreement on the cessation of other Iranian activity is not realistic. Even during the Cold War and the era of mutual deterrence, subversion, propaganda and hostilities continued in Korea, Vietnam and dozens of other corners of the world, without toppling the global order.

It’s still not too late to demand that Natanzyahu give an accounting for his disastrous policy, and to deprive him of the ability to continue it. If Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) doesn’t understand this, but focuses on the distribution of portfolios and jobs in the Knesset, he is sentencing himself to being the paymaster for a failed captain.

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