What President Obama means when he says he has Israel's back is that he will partner with Israel's enemies behind her back, giving succor to a regime that operates against both Israel and the U.S.
No such language could have been used by President Obama in respect of the agreement reached in Geneva. In plain English, the best that could be said of it is that — for the time being — the mullahs can keep their crematoria, so to speak, on standby.
That may sound harsh. But feature the fact that President Obama has been saying for years that he has Israel’s back. What this turns out to mean is that he will treat with Israel’s enemies behind Israel’s back, enter a partnership with them on terms to which the freely elected government in Jerusalem objects, and in boasting about the betrayal declare that Israel has good reason to be skeptical of Iran’s intentions.
The intentions about which this deal raises questions are Obama’s — and not just his. The concerns of those of us who opposed the elevation of John Kerry to Secretary of State go way beyond Tehran. This, after all, is not the first time Kerry went to Europe to treat with an American enemy and emerged to put the gloss on the enemy’s position. He began his political career by traveling to Paris in 1970 to meet with envoys of communist Vietnam.
It took fewer than five years between Kerry’s trip to Paris as a young reserve officer in the Navy and the decision of the 94th United States Congress to abandon free Vietnam. People tend to forget the particulars. There were no American combat troops in Vietnam when the Congress voted to cut off all aid to Saigon. It just decided to pivot out of Indochina and move on, ignoring the pleas of President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger. The devil took the hindmost.
We’re a long way from that in respect of Israel. But President Obama clearly understood what he was doing when he picked Kerry as state secretary. And picked, in Charles Hagel, a defense secretary who had also turned against the war in Vietnam. A lot of patriotic Americans turned against the war in Vietnam. All the more reason to remember the consequences. The last negotiation for which Kerry plumped plunged a population the size of Eastern Europe’s into the darkness of communism.
Neither Kerry nor Obama were alive at the time of Munich. But the catastrophe of 1938 was well marked on Sunday by Israeli MK Moshe Feiglin, who called the handshake at Geneva this weekend “the Iranian version of the Munich Agreement.” He noted that like the doughty Czechs in 1938, Israel was not a party to the parley. “Israel today watches from the sidelines,” is the way he put it.
One could but add that there was one difference between Geneva today and Munich in 1938. The envoys of the free European governments knew deep down that they had blundered at Munich. “Imbeciles” was the word Prime Minister Daladier of France famously muttered when, on his arrival back at Paris, he was cheered by throngs of his countrymen. Where is the self-awareness in the Western leadership today?
We are but 15 years after India stunned the world by disclosing that it had an A-bomb. Yet “after spending billions of dollars,” the New York Times spumed in its astonishment, our spies “inexplicably gave President Clinton no warning that India was ready to test nuclear weapons.” It and the rest of the Left was almost inchoate with surprise when the North Koreans betrayed their assurances in respect of their own atomic bomb.
It is too soon to tell what the Republicans in Washington will make of the deal in Geneva. But there is a faction that reckons the problem in Iran is not only the weapons but the regime, which for years has been operating against us, surreptitiously in combat, the same as it has against Israel. This faction reckons that Reagan would have long since either found a way to bolster Iran’s democratic opposition or helped found a government-in-exile of Iran that could have levied a revolution. That is the surest way to put the “never” in the phrase “never again.”
Seth Lipsky is editor of The New York Sun. He was a foreign editor and a member of the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal, the founding editor of The Forward and its editor from 1990 to 2000. His books include “The Citizen’s Constitution: An Annotated Guide,” and most recently “The Rise of Abraham Cahan.”