MONTREAL — The United States clearly betrayed Israel in Geneva in signing on to the interim “P5+1” deal with Iran, a country that remains intent on producing nuclear weapons.
That was the unquestioned consensus of panellists at a Canadian Institute for Jewish Research (CIJR) synagogue seminar on the “approaching nuclear showdown.” The event was planned some time ago, and it was by sheer happenstance that it took place the morning after the deal was signed on Nov. 23.
The uptake was that people filled the hall at Shomrim Laboker synagogue to standing-room-only levels – a rarity for CIJR events.
“The Jewish People are facing a severe crisis indeed,” CIJR founding director Fred Krantz said. “The situation is now more dangerous in many ways [than] since 1947-48 [the War of Independence].
“The U.S. is no longer [Israel’s] most reliable ally.”
President Barack Obama has “effectively allied itself with Israel’s prime enemy.”
Krantz and other participants, including Université du Québec à Montréal’s Julien Bauer, Sephardi community leader David Bensoussan and the synagogue’s Rabbi Yonah Rosner, were as one in comparing Obama to Neville Chamberlain, the “peace in our time” British prime minister who, in 1938, unwittingly signed onto the infamous “Munich Agreement” meant to appease Hitler.
Krantz described Obama’s policies as “feckless,” and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as being gullible to Iran’s “charm offensive.”
He said Iran is being run by a “crazy regime” that will continue on its path to nuclear weapons capability because of the deal’s “mild strictures.”
Signed by the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China – plus Germany), the six-month-long interim agreement requires Iran to dilute almost bomb-grade-ready 20 per cent-enriched uranium to five per cent, and cap new enrichment at that level.
The deal also bars Iran from making any new centrifuges – the equipment that does the enriching – but does not make Iran dismantle existing ones.
In exchange, crippling economic sanctions on Iran are being partially lifted, thus freeing up billions of dollars for Iran.
The trouble, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called the deal a “historic mistake,” as well as other critics and those at the seminar, is that the deal is only for six months and does not prevent Iran from going forward with its nuclear program.
After that, Krantz said, we may well witness the “final sell-out of Israel.”
Others, including the American Jewish Committee, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, some Israeli pundits, and Israeli president Shimon Peres, all shared serious concerns over the deal, but seemed more willing to give it a chance at working.
Peres said that “this is an interim deal, and its fallout and continuation can only be discussed according to results and not according to words alone.”
But at the seminar, there was no optimism expressed. Krantz said the International Atomic Energy Agency responsible for monitoring the deal, is notoriously unreliable and easily fooled, while Bensoussan said that because of its vast oil supplies, Iran did not even need atomic energy.
Bauer, meanwhile, was equally blunt. Obama’s Middle East policy, Bauer said, was “first, to kneel,” and he described him as being, “on the Palestinian side.”
The only silver lining in all this, he suggested is that Saudi Arabia, like Israel, does not want Iran to go nuclear and therefore would look the other way if Israel needed to fly over Saudi Arabian airspace to target Iranian nuclear facilities.
Rabbi Rosner said the consequences of the deal are “catastrophic.”
“Iran is totally untrustworthy,” he said. “Politics is played at the White House while Israel is existentially threatened.”