Opinion |

Israel Should Talk to Iran

Israel shirks its duty when it calls Iran satanic, and a sober Israeli leadership must find ways of holding practical negotiations, clandestine at first, with the Ayatollah

Amir Oren
Amir Oren
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
A Tehran resident, Hamed Ghassemi, works on his cell phone, with a portrait of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, after speaking in an interview with The Associated Press in a reaction to U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement of Iran nuclear deal, in central Tehran, Iran, Friday, Oct. 13, 2017. "Iran has in no way violated the nuclear deal, and as far as we know it has always remained committed to its promises, but it has always been them (Americans) who have broken their promises and have had other options on the table," said Hamed Ghassemi. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
A Tehran resident, Hamed Ghassemi, works on his cell phone, with a portrait of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, after speaking in an interview with The Associated Press in a reaction to Credit: Vahid Salemi/AP
Amir Oren
Amir Oren

“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.

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.

>> Netanyahu’s real test on Iran: Translating Trump's words into actions | Analysis <<

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.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

SUBSCRIBE
Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

The Orion nebula, photographed in 2009 by the Spitzer Telescope.

What if the Big Bang Never Actually Happened?

Relatives mourn during the funeral of four teenage Palestinians from the Nijm family killed by an errant rocket in Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip, August 7.

Why Palestinian Islamic Jihad Rockets Kill So Many Palestinians

בן גוריון

'Strangers in My House': Letters Expelled Palestinian Sent Ben-Gurion in 1948, Revealed

AIPAC

AIPAC vs. American Jews: The Toxic Victories of the 'pro-Israel' Lobby

Bosnian Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic speaks during a press conference in Sarajevo, Bosnia in May.

‘This Is Crazy’: Israeli Embassy Memo Stirs Political Storm in the Balkans

Hamas militants take part in a military parade in Gaza.

Israel Rewards Hamas for Its Restraint During Gaza Op