The rain of Hamas rockets and a war Israelis never wanted is understandably arresting the attention of the world and the Jewish community. And yet another threat to Israel — the potential for a nuclear Iran — can’t be forgotten even as Israel confronts its more immediate enemy.
This week Western powers and Iran agreed to extend by four months their negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. The West, led by the Obama administration, cited “progress” as the reason for the extension, arguing that “no deal is better than a bad deal.” And yet for the extension to succeed, the U.S.-led sanctions and international pressure which have been effective in bringing Iran to the negotiating table must be sustained and enforced.
Jewish groups are largely in agreement that diplomacy is the best option for ending the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. But they also worry that Iran might use the extension as an excuse to gain relief from such pressure without sacrificing their march toward weaponization. “Economic pressure brought Tehran to the negotiating table, and increased pressure is critical to any reasonable prospect for reaching a good agreement,” the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said in a statement lamenting the extension.
The administration has signaled that it shares this concern. Secretary of State John Kerry said that negotiators did not agree to an extension of the July 20 deadline “merely to drag out negotiations.” He warned that should Iran not satisfy the demands of the international community, “sanctions will tighten and Iran’s isolation will deepen,” while “all options are on the table.”
The administration was wary when members of Congress, including NJ Sen. Robert Menendez, proposed legislation that would have imposed added sanctions on Iran should it balk at the negotiating table. Short of such legislation, then, the administration must work with Congress and send a strong signal to Tehran that, in AIPAC’s phrase, “America’s patience with diplomacy is not infinite.”
Although otherwise engaged, the whole world is watching.