The Half-Full Glass

There appears to be no limit to the chutzpah of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Only a few days after announcing that he was thawing the freeze on the sale of sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, he was warning Israel against selling weapons to the Ukraine.

The hypocrisy drives home the point that Russia cannot be trusted, despite its charm offensive of recent years and its attempts to portray itself as a friend that takes Israel’s national security needs seriously. The decision to rush ahead with the missile sale to Iran, and to close a number of big deals last week, shows that Russia hasn’t changed its stripes and will do whatever serves its economic and strategic interests, regardless of the impact on Israel.

It also serves notice to those in Israel who not that long ago toyed with the notion of reaching out to Russia as a way of serving notice to Washington that it has other options. Any such thoughts are dangerous folly.

The United States is the one true friend that Israel has in the international community, and that has to be kept in mind as we approach the June 30 deadline on a final nuclear agreement with Iran. For all the mistrust that has been generated by this agreement, Israel must proceed with caution, seeing the rays of light in the administration’s positions and focusing on what, specifically, could make the final agreement better, even if far from perfect.

One such ray of light is Vice President Joe Biden’s reassurance last Friday that sanctions will not be eased right away, as demanded by the Iranians. “If at the front end they expect there to be total sanction relief or significant sanction relief, there will be no deal,” Biden told a Democratic political action committee in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as reported by Politico. “This will be, ‘You have to earn it.’”

The vice president deserves credit and gratitude from Israel and the American Jewish community, not cynicism, which isn’t constructive. All the more so President Barack Obama, who has a track record of coming through for Israel with funding for Iron Dome anti-missile batteries and in many other areas.

That doesn’t mean that Israel should lie down and accept whatever deal is concluded. Rather, it means giving up on unrealistic expectations, like getting Iran to recognize Israel or abandon its wholesale export of terrorism, and focusing on achievable aims that give teeth to the agreement that is on the table.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, who was head of military intelligence and one of the pilots who bombed the Osiraq reactor in Iraq in 1981, has analyzed the agreement and concludes that it is neither a “very bad deal,” as its critics claim, nor a “historic achievement,” as its proponents argue.

On the plus side, it rolls back the Iranian nuclear program, imposes serious limitations on future development and allows for unprecedented supervision. The big minus is that it gives legitimacy to Iran as a nuclear-threshold state, enables it to continue to advance in research and development, and places at its disposal many resources that can be used to advance worldwide terrorism.

What should Israel be pushing for at this very delicate time? First and foremost, effective supervision, which means access to nuclear sites, researchers, documents and organizations that are tied to the nuclear program in Iran.

In addition, there should be agreements reached with Washington now as to what steps will be taken in the event that Iran violates the terms of the nuclear pact.

Everyone agrees, including Yadlin, that the current agreement tilts towards Iran’s interests. Washington was eager, perhaps over-eager, to reach an agreement and avoid the need to take military action, and Iran took advantage of that.

But it isn’t too late to improve the package. By lowering the tone, the acrimony, Israel will have a much better chance of persuading the powers that be in Washington of the need to address its legitimate concerns. If nothing else, the appearance to the world, particularly the Arabs, that the friendship and alliance is resuming its former proportions will serve Israel’s interests.

There is no better friend for Israel than the United States. And there is no better friend for the United States in the very dangerous Middle East than Israel.

The shared values, the shared destiny of the two, make it almost inevitable that they will continue working together in an attempt to rid the world of its most serious security threat, b’ezras Hashem.