For days, lefties like Chris Matthews of MSNBC and Jonathan Chait of the New Republic have been fuming that conservative critics of the Iran “framework” have referred to it as the sequel to the Munich agreement of 1938—the deal that defined “appeasement.” Yet President Barack Obama proved his critics correct on Monday when he rejected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s suggestion that Iran be required to accept Israel’s right to exist as a condition of a final deal.
Obama called Netanyahu’s demand—which was backed, unanimously, by the Israeli Cabinet—a “fundamental misjudgment.”
In fact, what Netanyahu’s demand shows is that the Iran deal is the fundamental error. An Iran that is prepared to live in peace with its neighbors can be trusted with nuclear technology—and it bears repeating that much of the technology Iran secures under the “framework” has no civilian applications, including the 5,000 centrifuges and the ballistic missile technology.
Conversely, an Iran that rejects Israel’s right to exist—and that proclaims “death to America” even while negotiating with Obama—has no good intentions and needs to be pressured further, not appeased. Matthews may be right that the “Munich” analogy is overused as a symbol of appeasement, but in the Israeli context it has very specific relevance, both in the fact that the Great Powers sacrificed a small, isolated democratic nation and in the fact that the enemy wanted to annihilate the Jews.
Those conditions are repeated today. And Israel has learned, through its own history, that to negotiate with an enemy that remains dead-set on your destructions is to reward past aggression and invite future war.
Obama—like even his Republican predecessors–sees the peace process with the Palestinians as a worthy path. He blames Israel—unlike any of his predecessors—for its failure. But most Israelis agree that the Palestinians simply pocketed Israeli concessions and kept fighting.
Obama seemed to understand that, once—or, at least, he pretended to understand.
In the 2008 campaign, he made much of the fact that he had opposed the elections in Gaza in 2006. One of the most important reasons for doing so was that terrorists had been allowed to participate in the election, at the insistence of the George W. Bush administration without dropping its weapons. When Hamas won, and pursued an even bloodier course, Obama could say that he had been right all along.
Today, however, Obama is fully prepared to elevate a terrorist and terror-sponsoring regime to the status of a regional power, without any apparent concern for the consequences. It turns out his opposition to the Palestinian elections in 2006 was just another talking point in an anti-Bush agenda drawn directly from the editorial page of the New York Times—nice as a specimen of the left’s exquisite hermeneutic insularity, not quite as useful as the substance of a real national security policy.
As for that national security policy, it is being run by people with no national security qualifications whatsoever—people like Ben Rhodes, the failed writer whose main distinction is the fact that his brother runs CBS News. Working under Rhodes is Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, a former employee of a lobby group that supports the Iranian regime with an equally thin resume and who was promoted, mysteriously, at this opportune moment in history at the age of 31 to be the director of the NSC for Iran.
But all that is really tangential to the fundamental policy of the administration, for which Obama is solely responsible. In explaining why recognition for Israel was so inappropriate, Obama said that it “is really akin to saying that we won’t sign a deal unless the nature of the Iranian regime completely transforms.”
Precisely so—and the Iranian regime must transform if there is ever to be peace.
Earlier presidents—notably, but not exclusively, Reagan—knew how to negotiate deals with the Soviet Union that included provisions such as human rights standards, which over time would erode the regime from within. Instead, Obama not only fails to insist on regime change but protects the regime’s permanence—and joins it in accepting the tacit condition that Israel’s existence is in doubt.
Netanyahu understands full well that this deal, over time, means the end of Israel—and a direct nuclear threat to America, which does not seem to trouble Obama. It is just like Munich, in fact. Only worse.