January 17, 2019

Bibi to Congress: Don’t be suckers

As I watched from the press gallery in Congress on Tuesday morning as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu let loose with a cry of the heart, one thought kept popping up: If Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei is watching this, he must be very, very happy that he’s not negotiating with this former Israeli commando.

In all the talk we’ve been hearing about “unachievable ideals” and “we don’t want another war” and “diplomacy is the best solution” and so on, we’ve lost sight of the most important and obvious thing: When you’re buying a rug in a Persian bazaar, the more eager you look, the more the price goes up.

And if there’s one thing President Barack Obama has shown from the very beginning, it is his eagerness to make a deal. While Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have played eager beavers, the wily mullahs just kept raising the price.

As a result, we’re left today with a deal Bibi and many others believe is way too expensive and that Yossi Klein Halevi told me “brings us to the edge of the abyss.” In his speech, Bibi didn’t speculate on a hypothetical deal — he quoted what is already in the public record and what Obama essentially confirmed in an interview with Reuters on Monday. 

For example, he quoted this concession: “Not a single nuclear facility would be demolished. Thousands of centrifuges used to enrich uranium would be left spinning. Thousands more would be temporarily disconnected, but not destroyed.”

This means, Bibi said, that “Iran’s nuclear program would be left largely intact, Iran’s break-out time would be very short — about a year by U.S. assessment, even shorter by Israel’s.” And, as far as depending on United Nations inspectors to monitor compliance, Bibi gave some pretty dramatic examples of how Iran “not only defies inspectors, it also plays a pretty good game of hide-and-cheat with them.”

But as dangerous and risky as that first concession is, Bibi then took on the mother of all concessions: “Virtually all the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program will automatically expire in about a decade.”

At the end of that decade, he said, Iran “would be free to build a huge nuclear capacity that could produce many, many nuclear bombs.”

Who did he quote to back this up? Khamenei himself: “Iran’s Supreme Leader says that openly. He says Iran plans to have 190,000 centrifuges, not 6,000 or even the 19,000 that Iran has today, but 10 times that amount — 190,000 centrifuges enriching uranium. With this massive capacity, Iran could make the fuel for an entire nuclear arsenal and this in a matter of weeks, once it makes that decision.”

When your civilization goes back 5,000 years, what’s another measly 10 years?

When your civilization goes back 5,000 years, what’s another measly 10 years?

I think you get my drift. Beyond all the fancy analyses of strategy, geopolitics and security doctrines, this is really about brass knuckles. It’s about doing whatever it takes to get the best possible deal.

It’s about looking your enemy in the eye and making him understand that you’re on to him. It’s about making it clear to that enemy that you don’t want a deal more than he does. And it’s about making your enemy believe, truly believe, that you’re not bluffing when you say that “all options are on the table.”

Seriously, is there anybody who believes that the wily mullahs are shaking in their boots when they see John Kerry? When they see President Obama threaten to veto any legislation that might give him more leverage, what are the mullahs hearing? “Please don’t walk away, because I really want this deal”?

Bibi’s speech was important not because he brought new facts to the table but because he brought timeless wisdom.

Yes, he talked about how Jews are an ancient people, and he gave me the chills when he reminded the world that the 6 million Jews living in Israel today are not the helpless 6 million Jews who were murdered in Europe seven decades ago.

His speech had all those emotional appeals that stirred my soul, but it had more than that. It had simple, timeless wisdom.

Bibi’s speech was important not because he brought new facts to the table but because he brought timeless wisdom.

It had the wisdom that says if your enemy thinks you’re bluffing, you’ll never get a good deal, and that the alternative to a bad deal is to drive a harder bargain.

It had the wisdom expressed in this simple and powerful line: “If Iran wants to be treated like a normal country, let it act like a normal country.”

And, above all, it had the timeless wisdom that says when you’re negotiating with a murderous enemy who’s a cheater, never act like a sucker.

David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.