In the least plausible alternative version of my life, I would have stayed in the San Fernando Valley rather than leaving Los Angeles over 40 years ago and moving not long afterward to Jerusalem. In that scenario, I’d be represented in Congress by Democrat Brad Sherman—and I might be less infuriated by his recent announcement that he’ll vote against the Iran deal, because if I were an Angeleno rather than an Israeli, his decision wouldn’t pose a threat to me, my neighbors and my country.
At this distance of years and miles, I don’t normally pay much attention to an L.A. congressman, but a random tweet alerted me to Sherman’s statement. New York Senator Chuck Schumer’s declaration that he’ll vote against the accord made more headlines, and is even more upsetting, given the relatively greater weight of each vote in the Senate. In both cases, their statements barely mention Israel, but their explanations track Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s talking points for foiling the deal in Congress. You don’t have to be a cynic to suspect that Schumer and Sherman have devoted much of their study of the issue to their constituents and have concluded that voters who support the Vienna accord are a captive audience for a Democratic incumbent, while passionate opponents are swing voters and perhaps swing donors.
I imagine that Sherman, Schumer, and other Democrats who intend to vote against the agreement might respond that Netanyahu is, after all, Israel’s elected leader and therefore the accredited spokesman for its security concerns. But there would be a logical absurdity in that argument. They could not even consider opposing the agreement if they believed that the elected leader of their own country is the sole authority on its national security. They know that an election granted President Barack Obama the right to govern within constitutional limits. An election is not certification of omniscience. The same is true of Netanyahu.
In Israel, the most prominent dissenters from Netanyahu’s position are veterans of its military and intelligence agencies. There’s Shlomo Brom, ex-head of strategic planning in the Israeli general staff, who has debunked precisely the myths about the Vienna accord that fill Schumer’s and Sherman’s statements. Ami Ayalon, former commander of the Israeli Navy and ex-head of the Shin Bet security service, has stated that “when it comes to Iran’s nuclear capability, this [deal] is the best option.” Yuval Diskin, another former Shin Bet director, this week tweeted in Hebrew that he “identifies absolutely” with Thomas Friedman’s New York Times column on why Israelis should support the accord.
Yes, I’m picking my experts (though if space and patience allowed, I could list many more). What Ayalon, Brom, Diskin, and colleagues who have expressed similar views have in common is that—to use Hebrew slang—they’re not “vegetarians.” They know there’s sometime no choice but to use military force. But they also have an utterly unromantic understanding of the costs of using force and the limits of what it can accomplish. They are the kind of security experts that a Democratic member of Congress should want to consult. (There’s little point in discussing which experts a Republican lawmaker should consult: The GOP’s fundamental principle is that any agreement reached by Barack Obama is illegitimate, which meshes sweetly with Netanyahu’s core belief that all diplomacy is delusion.) …
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