Harry van Bommel: "Netanyahu is an obstacle to peace"

3 March 2015

Harry van Bommel: "Netanyahu is an obstacle to peace"

On Tuesday Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the United States Congress. He had only one message: ‘Stop Obama from signing a nuclear agreement with Iran!' He said that in his opinion the struggle against  Iran is much more important than the struggle against ISIS.

Foto: SP

On Tuesday morning 2600 Jewish Americans placed an ad in the New York Times saying that they did not agree with Netanyahu’s policies with regard to Iran and the Palestinians. For me, they were right: with his policies in the region, Netanyahu forms a major obstacle to peace.

Netanyahu is a huge opponent of the negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme, principally on the grounds that Iran is not to be trusted. Iran is regularly accused by Israel of working on nuclear weapons on the sly, and of already having such a destructive weapon at its disposal. For that matter, Netanyahu has been warning of this for some twenty years, which hardly enhances his credibility. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has, in addition, never confirmed his assertions.

The Israeli prime minister is waging a permanent campaign of fear. This is also clear from recent revelations about his speech in 2012 before the UN, when he warned that Iran was already close to having a nuclear weapon available, yet the Israeli secret service Mossad obviously did not agree. Their conclusion was rather that Iran had displayed none of the activity necessary for producing such a weapon. Netanyahu’s assertions about Iran are intended to distract attention from his domestic policies, which are controversial as a result of the expansion of the settlements within the Palestinian territory as well as the fact that housing in Israel is becoming unaffordable. 

Whether reliable agreements can be made with Iran in relation to its nuclear policy remains to be seen. Sound, verifiable agreements are hugely preferable to further sanctions which could possibly end in military action. When it comes to monitoring of nuclear activities, moreover, Israel has a humdinger of a credibility problem. Unlike Iran, Israel is not party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), an international agreement designed to curb the spread of nuclear arms and putting conditions on the peaceful use of nuclear technology. Recently, a document from the US Defence Department dating to the 1980s was made public. It once more made clear that in that period Israel was working intensively on a nuclear arms programme. That Israel in the meantime has gained access to atomic weaponry has long been known. Netanyahu is accusing Iran of doing what Israel itself had done previously.

The speech before the US Congress must be seen against the background of Israel’s forthcoming elections. It’s absolute cheek for Netanyahu to assert that his visit was ‘not political’. At election time, everything is political. In refusing to meet with the Israeli premier President Obama has done what every head of state and government should do: decline to give a politician on campaign a platform. For his part, Netanyahu has nothing to say to Obama. He would rather talk about war, now that peace threatens to endure. This makes Netanyahu himself now the greatest obstacle to peace in the Middle East.

This article first appeared, in the original Dutch, on the website Joop.nl

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