March 29, 2015

Letting the Iranian Ayatollahs Slide

“When the Supreme Leader of Iran is continuing, in the middle of these negotiations…to make statements like 'death to America,' how is that not problematic for you? …why are you just willing to let that, let it slide, basically, and you are holding the prime minister of Israel to comments that he made and has since changed?”

In her non-direct answer to Matt Lee’s question, State Department spokesperson, Jen Psaki seemed to enact the very problem the AP reporter had just identified:

“…our relationship with Israel is abiding; it’s strong; it’s a security relationship; it’s one that we’re committed to. Do we have disagreements on some issues, like how we should proceed with preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon? Yes. Have we – can we – do we believe that it isn’t possible to just forget what the prime minister says when it’s conflicting with past precedent and past policy for some time? Yes…”

Lee tried to get Psaki to talk about the contrast between reaction to the words of an ally talking, during a heated, democratic election, about his country’s situation vs non-reaction to words like “death to America” spoken by leaders of the country currently negotiating--with the US--for nuclear weapons. But Psaki continued in the same vein:

“…even if there is a deal, it doesn’t mean we let slide or forget, whether it’s the comments or more important the actions – state sponsor of terrorism, their human rights record…But we also feel that preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon is not only in our interests, it’s in the interests of the international community…”

The implication here seems to be that negotiating with Iran about their nuclear weapons program is disconnected from considering or responding to their leaders’ words and actions. This seems to leave us simply ignoring the plain meaning of their words.  

By contrast, although Netanyahu clarified, or changed, his last minute campaign statement, the Israeli leader’s words apparently are always relevant.  Except when they are not, as in: we don’t accept his clarification.
A day after the election, Netanyahu reiterated that he continues to hold the same views as those he has expressed since his speech at Bar Ilan University in 2009.  There, he voiced his support for a demilitarized Palestinian state next door to the Jewish state, whereas in the last moments of the campaign, in what seems to have been a ploy to get votes away from some of the smaller parties, he contradicted this position. 

Politicians’ electioneering aside, journalist Matt Lee raises an important question. 

How is it that even while they are directly calling for the destruction of the US, Iranian leaders are not to be criticized or taken at their word, yet any statement by the freely elected prime minster of Israel, a close American ally, is under continual, negative scrutiny?

At the same time, Netanyahu’s consistent and persistent warnings about Iran’s nuclear program may be in the process of being ignored.  The upcoming “deal” has been described by an Israeli official as an “incomprehensibly” bad agreement that leaves thousands of centrifuges in place and puts no restraints on Iranian backed terrorism.

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