In the Arena

Iran Progress=Bad News for Neocons

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We should be very careful about predicting good news when it comes to negotiations with the Iranians. We’ve come close to making deals in the past–remember Ronald Reagan sending his national security adviser to Tehran with a cake and a Bible–and the Supreme Leader has always skittered away. And so I’m suspicious that the current optimism about a deal limiting Iran’s nuclear program may be a bit premature. But it does seem that the voices of sanity in Israel are finally speaking up about the extremist excesses of Binyamin Netanyahu and his American neoconservative buddies.

Over the weekend, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gave a speech in New York–marked by neocon booing–in which he criticized Netanyahu. Earlier in the week, both the former leader of the Shin Bet (Israel’s FBI) and the current military chief of staff expressed their skepticism about the need for a pre-emptive Israel strike against Iran. This has been a fairly consistent, and underreported, phenomenon: the Israel military and intelligence services want no part of Netanyahu’s (and Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s) saber-rattling. You wouldn’t know that from listening to the assorted Republicans, and conservative Jewish leaders, who have gone way out on a limb in plumping for war–and from their minions in groups like the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League. Which made it all the more satisfying when Olmert put the boo-birds in their place:

“As a concerned Israeli citizen who lives in the state of Israel with his family and all of his children and grandchildren,” he said, “I love very much the courage of those who live 10,000 miles away from the state of Israel and are ready that we will make every possible mistake that will cost lives of Israelis.”

It would be a mistake to get too optimistic, too soon, about the negotiations with Iran…but it is time for American Jewish leaders to stop embarrassing themselves in their guilt-ridden attempts to be more Israeli than the Israelis.