J.J. Goldberg

An Israeli General Explains Why Stopping Iran Requires a Real Settlement Freeze

By J.J. Goldberg

  • Print
  • Share Share

Why should Israel have to freeze new Jewish housing construction in East Jerusalem, when it has already conceded so much and the Palestinians and their Arab patrons have given up so little?

Well, for one thing, that Israel-gave-lots/Arabs-gave-little equation is not as cut and dry as it seems. But that’s a separate discussion for another day. The essential question is this: America says it needs the freeze for reasons of American security. Does Israel owe it to America to answer American security needs as America answers Israel’s security needs? And if it doesn’t, what are the consequences?

Haaretz has two opinion essays right now arguing that Israel should freeze construction because it needs to stop Iran’s nuclear project and it needs America to lead the effort. One piece is by Ari Shavit, the prolific and unpredictable center-left interviewer/essayist. Its bottom line is that Bibi Netanyahu has boxed himself into a corner through a series of missteps over the past year and he needs to do something dramatic to get himself out of it:

The road to Iran also passes through Palestine. The price of stopping the centrifuges is giving up settlements. Only if Netanyahu acts with determination in this spirit can he right the great injustice he has done to himself over the past year. Only Netanyahu can save Netanyahu from destruction.

The other piece is considerably more substantive and compelling. It’s by Ephraim Sneh, a reserve brigadier general, former West Bank civil administration head (military governor), former deputy defense minister, former transportation minister, former health minister (he’s also an MD). Unlike Shavit he stays away from personal issues of Netanyahu versus Obama and sticks to a cold analysis of Israeli strategic interest.

Sneh lays out 10 “assumptions” that he says must be taken into account when attempting to unravel the current “fundamental and serious” crisis in U.S.-Israel relations. I won’t try to summarize them, because Sneh presents them in a terse, compelling flow. Here’s how he puts it:

1.) Israel cannot keep up a confrontation with its friends for long while its legitimacy is being eroded. This will soon begin to adversely affect the economy, based as it is on exports.

2.) Without a genuine pause in settlement expansion and construction in East Jerusalem, Israel will continue to lose the support of friends and international legitimacy.

3.) Israel cannot live in the shadow of a nuclear Iran. Immigration will cease, more young people will emigrate and foreign investments will diminish…A nuclear Iran will increase the audacity of the region’s extremists, threaten the moderates and lead within a few years to the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Saudi Arabia and Egypt…

4.) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in accordance with his strong beliefs on this matter, cannot allow himself to be the leader on whose watch Iran acquires nuclear weapons.

5.) In the absence of “crippling sanctions” that will undermine the regime in Tehran, it is reasonable to assume that by 2011 Iran will have a nuclear bomb or two.

6.) An Israeli military campaign against Iran’s nuclear installations is likely to cripple that country’s nuclear project for a number of years. The retaliation against Israel would be painful, but bearable.

7.) U.S. President Barack Obama would find it difficult, if only for internal political reasons, to take military action against Iran and thereby open a new theater for war, in addition to Iraq and Afghanistan.

8.) The acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran during Obama’s term would do him a great deal of political damage. The damage that the resulting independent Israeli strike would cause Obama — soaring gasoline prices and American casualties in retaliatory operations — would be devastating.

9.) For practical reasons, in the absence of genuine sanctions, Israel will not be able to wait until the end of next winter, which means it would have to act around the congressional elections in November, thereby sealing Obama’s fate as president.

10.) Without international legitimacy, and with its friends mad at it, Israel would find it very difficult to act on its own.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: settlements, Obama, Netanyahu, Israel, Iran, East Jerusalem, Ephraim Sneh, Ari Shavit

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.