This issue is so important, and so complex, that I just re-thought my decision to skip a day in posting, in order to address this.
Truth to tell, sometimes it’s impossible to figure out what’s what. The problem, however, is that rumors fly, and sometimes sources seem authoritative — so that sincere people of good will trust them — but turn out not to be.
There are stories that have been floating that I haven’t mentioned precisely because I cannot determine with a satisfactory degree of certainty what is real. But here, very briefly, I’d like to touch upon a couple of them in order to do some clarification.
It started with an article in Maariv, here in Israel and then floated widely — with multiple versions sent to me by readers: Obama, we were told, has established a policy of blocking visas to Israeli nuclear scientists. This apparently was yet another manifestation of Obama’s dissatisfaction with us, another way in which he could inhibit us.
WorldNetDaily, for example, has a piece by Roger Hedgecock that says: “Netanyahu canceled his participation in the conference, sending a lower level delegation to the conference instead. Obama retaliated by barring U.S. entry visas to all Israeli scientists even remotely connected to the Israel nuclear program.”
The State Department has denied that there is such a policy, however. What to believe?
Now we have an answer: Roger L. Simon, who writes the blog Pajamas Media, had originally carried the Maariv report, but decided to do some checking — for which he merits appreciation. He contacted the nuclear scientist, Dr. Zeev Alfasi, at Ben Gurion University in the Negev, who was the main scientist cited by Maariv. This is what Simon writes:
“Apparently, my report — and the newspaper’s — was inaccurate. The professor informed me that while it was extremely difficult for scientists who worked at Dimona to obtain U.S. visas, this was not a new policy of the Obama administration. This problem has been going on since 9/11.
“Alfassi explained that formerly he and other scientists were able to go through travel agents to obtain visas to the U.S. Now they have to go personally to the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv. He knows of at least one case of a scientist who was not able to attend a conference in this country [the U.S.] because of this system.”
So things may be a big tougher with the Obama administration, but we’re looking at a policy in effect for almost nine years. I would say — the article is not specific about this — that what we’re looking at is long term State Department hostility to Israel and not Obama’s hostility. And, apparently while it’s very difficult for scientists from Dimona to obtain U.S. visas, it’s not impossible and it certainly is not the case that U.S. entry visas are denied “to all Israeli scientists even remotely connected to the Israel nuclear program.”
(With thanks to Aaron Lerner, who called my attention to this when he put it up on IMRA.)
Another rumor making the rounds: Bowing quietly to Obama’s demand, Netanyahu has de facto stopped all construction in Jerusalem even though there has been no official announcement about this.
The story first surfaced a month ago. Reportedly, Netanyahu was so overwhelmed by Clinton’s forcefulness that he gave in and, according to Israel Insider, “instructed the relevant planning authorities to suspend all authorizations for new building – or even alterations such as balconies — in Jerusalem suburbs of Ramot Eshkol, French Hill, Pisgat Zeev, Neve Yakov, Har Homah and Gilo.”
Another version has it that Netanyahu temporarily halted all bureaucratic progress on Jerusalem construction so that the procedures could be reviewed and he would never again be surprised by an announcement, as he was when Biden was here.
I have attempted to secure the bottom line on this story. And I’m here to tell you that as of now I cannot. I am not absolving Netanyahu of pulling a fast one, but neither am I accusing him. It remains to be seen, and I simply caution drawing premature conclusions.
In fact, the latest I have is that Army Radio, as reported by Arutz Sheva, says that the Jerusalem Municipality is planning to approve the construction of a synagogue and other public buildings in the Gilo neighborhood.
With regard to that much-touted nuclear conference in Washington, I wish only to make a couple of comments here.
French president Nicholas Sarkozy, in a statement to CBS News, has declared that:
“I would not want the world to wake up to a conflict between Israel and Iran, quite simply because the international community has been incapable of acting.
“It [an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities] would be a disaster. I don’t even want to think about that possibility. And the best way to avoid this disaster scenario is to take measures in order to get Israel to understand that we are determined to ensure its security.”
My response to this: And so? And so??
There’s only one way to ensure our security, and that’s by making sure Iran does not go nuclear. Talk is cheap.
Sarkozy did concede that a nuclear Iran would be “dangerous and unacceptable,” but then goes on to say that is time for sanctions. Is there any serious person anywhere that believes today that sanctions will be enacted by the world community that are serious enough to stop Iran?
Oh yes, true to form, Sarkozy made another statement, a corollary to the above: “And Israel, furthermore, must equally make the necessary effort in order to bring about a fair and lasting peace with their Palestinian neighbors.”
Once again the attempt to generate the impression of a linkage where, in fact, none exists.
Then there is the far worse statement of Russian president Medvedev, who, incidentally is part of the problem because he’s only “lukewarm on sanctions.”
Said he: “It [an Israeli strike on Iran] would be the worst possible scenario — if a conflict of that kind happens, and a strike is performed, then you can expect anything, including use of nuclear weapons. And nuclear strikes in the Middle East, this means a global catastrophe.”
What he fails to comprehend — or chooses not to comprehend — is that the Israeli strike would be done before Iran was nuclear: to preclude attainment and use of nuclear weapons by Iran and to avoid a global catastrophe.
What I’m seeing is that Israel is being painted the bad guy in this equation — the nation that would disrupt quiet and cause nuclear conflagration — because we have the audacity to suggest that we are considering a preemptive strike against a nation which is about to go nuclear and has threatened us with destruction.
Medvedev’s concern is refugees fleeing Iran following an Israeli attack and flooding into Russia.
A note of explanation here: If Israel does hit Iran’s nuclear development facilities, it would not be a prolonged operation but a speedy strike, aimed only at weakening, not totally eliminating (we cannot do that) Iran’s capacity to go nuclear, setting it back some few years. This would not be a war against the nation of Iran.
It is understood that what would follow would be an Iranian military response, which would be roundly blamed on us. Ignored would be the fact that this military response would pale compared to (G-d forbid!) an Iranian nuclear strike.
Please see Anne Bayefsky’s important piece in The Weekly Standard :
She provides a comparison between what’s going on in Washington at the Nuclear Summit and, at the same time, at the UN, where an “ad-hoc committee on measures to eliminate international terrorism” is meeting. This committee “is gathered to talk about drafting the world’s first comprehensive convention against terrorism. For the fourteenth time in ten years.”
In Washington, Obama is speaking about terrorists who might acquire nuclear weapons. The ad hoc committee agrees that terrorism is a really bad thing, but, “It’s just that ‘resistance,’ ‘armed struggle,’ and ‘liberation’ are not terrorism. According to the Organization of Islamic States terrorism convention, exempt from “terrorist crimes” are “peoples’ struggle including armed struggle against foreign occupation, aggression, colonialism, and hegemony, aimed at liberation and self-determination.”
No wonder the committee has tried 14 times in 10 years to come to a conclusion.
One more farce in a very farcical world.
Everything is so heavy. Let me end here with something light — both figuratively and literally: Aqua Creations is an Israeli company that sculpts light, designing signed and numbered art pieces that are also exotic light fixtures shown in museums and featured in hotels.
See the video from Israel21C: