| Podcast: The Rose Report |

The Stakes are Very High

LISTEN: What will happen to Israel-Arab relations, and the Iran Nuclear Deal, post-elections? Former Ambassador Michael Oren says the stakes are very high


The first time I ever heard Michael Oren speak was at a conference at Bar Ilan University in June 2008, eleven months before Prime Minister Netanyahu appointed him to be Israel’s ambassador to the United States. At the time, the US was still mired in the War on Terror that followed 9/11. Oren, who is also an historian, noted this wasn’t the first time Americans were engaged in battle against Muslims in the Middle East.
Oren talked about the Barbary Wars, which began shortly after America declared its independence from Britain. Pirates from Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and the Algiers attacked American merchant ships in the Mediterranean, holding their sailors for ransom. This posed a major threat to the economy of the fledgling country. If you think we have strong differences of opinion today in how to deal with state sponsors of terror, it was no different back then.
John Adams, America’s second president, recommended paying ransom to the pirates to release the American ships. His vice president, Thomas Jefferson advocated going to war, which is exactly what Jefferson did when he became president, after Adams.
More than 200 years later, today’s presidential candidates are also battling over how to deal with the leading sponsor of global terror, Iran.
This debate often falls along the conservative versus liberal political divide. Joe Biden has promised to renew the nuclear deal with Iran that President Trump trashed. We don’t know exactly what Trump might do, but Oren says it remains challenging to this day to explain to both liberal American Jews and US politicians exactly why Iran is such a menace to Israel.
MO: I travel even among policymakers in Washington and I find almost none of them understand the strategic and human ramifications of the hundred and thirty thousand rockets, which Iran has given to Hezbollah, and which Hezbollah has now placed under 200 Lebanese villages in the South, and will use the residents of those villages as human shields should we tried to destroy those weapons. And that increasing numbers of these rockets are cruise missiles that can be guided to take out our essential infrastructure. And that's just in Lebanon. Those doesn't include the Irani back rockets in Gaza, in Iraq, even in Yemen, that can reach us. And that the Iranians are very very intelligent. That creates a situation where they'll wait out the Iran nuclear deal, they'll wait for the Sunset Clauses to expire, then they will break out and create a nuclear arsenal, and when we try to stop the breakout, we will be deterred by tens and tens of thousands of rockets being fired at our homes and our cities. That's the Iranian plan.
And the great thing about the Iranian nuclear program, is it facilitated it all, because it also gave them the money to buy the rockets. It gave them the influence to take over Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen. Great deal the Iran nuclear deal.
Now, I have to be able to explain that to American Jews. You can explain it. It's not difficult. It's difficult to get them to understand it. But that is our reality.
And when, you know, politicians say they want to renew that deal, this is what we are talking about. We're talking about putting us on to a path of a war that could be every bit as destructive, if not more so, than the Yom Kippur War of 1973.
Michael Oren also said Israel cannot become complacent even if Trump wins re-election. The president, and his top aides, have set a goal of bringing Iran back to the negotiating table.  Which means Israel will eventually have to make its red lines clear and transparent to the US.
MO: Irrespective of who wins on November 3rd, Israel must not repeat the mistake that it made in 2015 by not publishing and detailing what would be our interest in any Iranian nuclear deal. We never did it, and enabled the Obama administration, in it's time, to say that no deal would ever be acceptable to the Israelis — it wasn't true — we knew what a good deal would look like and for all sorts of strategic reasons we didn't publish it. We can't revisit that mistake. We have to publish what would be our interests and how they can be safeguarded in any future, re-negotiated deal between the United States and Iran.
Today, Oren keeps busy consulting with the different parties to Trump’s peace process, including Arab nations. So coming at this from a counterintuitive direction, I asked Oren if it was possible that a Biden victory next week would spur other Arab nations who are currently sitting on the fence, mainly Saudi Arabia, to strike a deal with Israel in Trump’s final days.

BR: Michael this Binyamin Rose from Mishpacha Magazine, how are you today?

MO: I've been doing alright.

BR: My question is what happens if Trump loses do we see perhaps a rush all of a sudden from several remaining Arab countries, Saudi Arabia in particular, to try to close deals with Israel before Trump leaves power, knowing that Biden is going to come in and change everything back?

MO: Is it very important question I'm grappling with pretty much on a daily basis because a Biden victory can cut two ways. And by the way, it could cost also both ways. One is as I've said before it's quite natural for an incoming Administration to adopt the AB position — which is 'anything but.' So when Obama came in was 'anything but Bush' and when Trump can it was 'anything but Obama.' So Biden would come in, and be 'anything but Trump' and since Trump was seen as The Godfather to will, the sponsor of these peace agreements, then it would be natural for a Biden administration to pull back, that this was his doing we're not going to have anything to do with that. And so the next administration, if it was a Democratic Administration, would not be willing to invest as heavily in building and strengthening these ties. And I can think of a number of initiatives which are now being discussed business initiatives economic exchanges, which I cannot with any certainty say would actually take place under a Biden administration.

BR: But does a Biden victory make some of these countries jump, like Saudi Arabia in particular?

MO: But here's how it cuts the other way. If the Biden Administration is going to move to renew the Iran nuclear deal at a time when America is withdrawing from the area and leaving a vacuum, then the only country that is really capable of standing up to Iran and defending this region effectively is the State of Israel. And it's only by bonding together can Israel and our Newfound Arab allies withstand Iran, especially Iran that's going to be greatly enriched and legitimized by Iran nuclear deal. The only other alternative for these country would be to go basically on their knees go back to Tehran. It is certainly not a savory option, but it may not be a viable and realistic option, either.
Oren said he has worked closely with both Biden and Harris. Out of all the candidates who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, he says they were the most pro-Israel, with perhaps the exception of Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar, and that both Biden and Harris vowed  never to use American aid to Israel as a lever to pressure Israel. What about the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, who will enjoy outsized influence in a Biden administration?
MO: There's a wellspring of progressive thought there — I encountered it 10 years ago, by the way, it's not new,  it's just expanded — which doesn't necessarily see Israel as an ally, in some cases they like to cut off aid. They are very concerned with the Palestinian issue above beyond all other issues. They actually can view this Peace Arrangements between Israel, Bahrain, Sudan as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause, and did not agree with the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's Capital, of the Golan Heights as part of Israeli Sovereign territory. Did not agree with America's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal — it's a long list. We have to proceed on the assumption that this growing Progressive wing of the Democratic party will have at least some influence over this Administration and we're going to have to deal with it
Oren says for now, we are in a holding pattern awaiting what happens after the election. Will the US remain invested in these new bilateral relations, under Trump, or will the emphasis revert to the Palestinian issue, under Biden?

Exclusive to Mishpacha.com 



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