“Dear Ayatollah,” Larry David’s character begins a pleading message before shifting to Skype with Iran’s consul general in Los Angeles, in an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” David’s in trouble with the Goliath of Tehran, and his panic is his viewers’ pleasure.
- Netanyahu’s Real Test on Iran: Translating Trump's Words Into Actions
- Trump's Lack of Strategy on Iran Is Reckless for America and for Israel
- Netanyahu Congratulates Trump for Decertifying Iran Nuclear Deal
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has no need to plea or to panic. Israel is a strong state, stronger than any of its neighbors, with capabilities conventional and not. It has submarines in the water and F-35s in the skies, anti-missile missiles to intercept distant threats, pervasive intelligence and special forces, strategic alliances, a developed economy and a large defense budget, yet still enjoying a yearly grant of $4 billion. With such a strong hand, it not only can, but must, talk to the Iranian regime. Israel shirks its duty when it calls Iran satanic, when Netanyahu uses a cartoon bomb when addressing the United Nations — Netanyahu, Captain Israel, with his Wonder Woman in a seat reserved for delegation members.
In his speech on Friday, Donald Trump quashed Netanyahu’s last hope of squeezing a juicy Iran crisis out of America’s worst president ever. “What’s done is done,” Trump admitted; all the rest is details and a contrarian Congress. The self-styled master of the deal, who lamented that the Obama administration “paid all the money up front” bowed to an iron rule of diplomacy: honoring agreements signed by preceding administrations.
Netanyahu also learned this lesson, not daring to rescind the Oslo Accords, which the Rabin government even in the face of great opposition. Netanyahu could only maneuver within the confines of the framework set by those accords. He was the one who gave the Palestinians Hebron. It served him well to speak out against the accords, promising to improve them in his election campaign yet learning to live with them when he attained power.
Last week the U.S. Army released an updated, unclassified edition of Field Manual 3-0, Operations, its basic book of military doctrine. Its target audience, if he’d bother reading beyond the first 140 characters, seems to be Trump. The manual describes grave scenarios of military confrontations with Russia, China, North Korea or Iran. These are not campaigns directed at Taliban-sized enemies, but drawn-out campaigns with difficult, division-size battles, rather than brigade-size ones in the Iraq and Afghanistan days, as well as army-size campaigns on the scale of World War II. They will cause thousands of American casualties a week. The victories envisioned by Trump will not be quick and cheap. Military brass is striving to deter Trump and prevent his illusions from becoming binding orders. The army has allies in Congress, in Berlin, London and the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, if not in Jerusalem.
A sober Israeli leadership must find ways of holding practical negotiations, clandestine at first, with the Ayatollah. Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei, reminisced a senior Israeli intelligence officer recently, was Iran’s president in the 1980s, the years of the Iran-Contras affair and other military-related contacts between Tehran and Tel Aviv. President Hassan Rohani, is bravely confronting the Revolutionary Guards. No hostility lasts forever. Iran’s hated shah, Israel’s erstwhile friend, was ousted four decades ago. What does the young generation care about that? In order to dispel expressions of hostility and find areas of agreement and mutual benefit, communication channels are required. There are many possibilities. This can happen at the UN, between ambassadors, under the auspices of the UN secretary-general, or in California, between groups of ex-Iranians and the consul, Larry David’s interlocutor. Most of all this can happen through Netanyahu and Rohani’s mutual friend, Russian President Vladimir Putin. This is no more a fantasy than were the initial contacts with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat or PLO leader Yasser Arafat.