For decades, Israel has declined to discuss its nuclear capabilities. It is generally understood, though, that the Israelis have a nuclear capability in terms of weapons – but the Israelis always answer: "Israel will not be the first country to use nuclear weapons in the Middle East."
It is also understood that Israel will not willingly endure another Holocaust. In fact, one of the miracles of modern Israel is that the country is now a safe haven for Jews, who can defend themselves. Many analysts, therefore, consider that if faced with the ultimate existential threat (such as that posed by a bellicose Iran), the Israelis would resort to a so-called "Samson Option" – a biblical reference to the man of strength who pulled down a pagan temple after being taken captive by his enemies; Samson died with his captors.
Certainly Iran's rapid advance toward nuclear weapons continues, especially in light of the controversial agreement crafted in the U.S. by President Obama and John Kerry, his secretary of state. Earlier today, Senate Democrats held together to block a resolution of disapproval against the deal. The vote was 58-42 in favor of proceeding, but 60 votes were needed for the resolution to advance to a final vote.
Interestingly, the agreement is not a formal, ratified treaty, and this point was driven home last week on Fox News Channel by presidential candidate Marco Rubio, the Republican senator from Florida.
Rubio pointed out that while conservative critics of the Iran agreement are dismayed by the success of the White House and State Department in pushing through the agreement (despite two-thirds of the American people opposing the deal), all is not lost.
Rubio told Fox that a new president could simply roll-back the agreement, and even reinstitute sanctions on the Iranian regime.
Last week, I participated in a fascinating conference call hosted by the America-Israel Friendship League, featuring Robert Satloff, the executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Satloff knows his stuff, and his analysis of the Iran deal proves that no one knows the future, and a whole range of outcomes can still become reality. Satloff's reasoned analysis and calm insights are instructive for the rest of us, as some are almost paralyzed by fear over the mullah's intentions. (Satloff is also the host of "Dakhil Washington" ["Inside Washington"], making him the only non-Arab to host a program on an Arab satellite channel.)
On the call, Satloff noted the extraordinary nature of this agreement:
"These seismic agreements can be negotiated by a handshake. Nothing was signed with the Iranians. It isn't a treaty."
Noting the important role the AIFL has played over the years in building friendships for Israel, helping to strengthen the bond between Israel and the U.S., Satloff mentioned the fact that over the years the two countries have had disagreements, but that the latest souring personal relationship between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is unique:
"I know this [AIFL] is an organization committed to friendship between America and Israel. We've had moments of great tension, but this is really unparalleled."
Satloff was asked how things got to this point:
"How is it possible? It's because of the enormous power the system has given to this president and any president. Almost anyone can reach an agreement unilaterally."
Satloff also made the important point that a dichotomy exists now in the U.S.-Israel relationship:
"This president has upgraded security enhancements to Israel. It's just objectively true. At the same time it's also true that relations between Obama and Netanyahu, the strategic relationship, is severely damaged. This is one of the baffling aspects of this issue: security is strengthened, relationships is damaged. Both are true at the same time."
Satloff says we can have a much better deal without even going back to the Iranians:
- Establish a set of specific penalties for violations, in conjunction with the Europeans.
- Use sanctions to discourage Iranians from sending money to Hezbollah.
- Push back on the problem of the so-called "sunset clause," by crafting a much clearer American statement leaving all options on the table, should the Iranians cheat.
- Strengthen the Israelis. With the North Korean negotiations, South Korea was at the table. In the latest round with Iran, Israel was sidelined. Enable the Israelis to have input, especially if intelligence points to Iran developing nukes.
Satloff also indicated that perhaps the most problematic element of the soured relations is the fact that both countries' enemies are watching:
"I believe Israel's adversaries will take advantage of this in the months ahead."
Still, Satloff takes the long view:
"The end of the world is not about to happen. There are ways for Israel to sustain and build its deterrence against Iran and to deepen its relationship with the U.S. over time.
"They don't have to consider the Samson Option."
Jim Fletcher (firstname.lastname@example.org), an author and an occasional contributor to OneNewsNow, is president of the apologetics ministry Prophecy Matters and longtime editor for Master Books, the world's largest publisher of creationism books. He has made numerous trips to Israel.
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