This was a second underlying theme of the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America. From Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech on the opening night until MK Shelly Yacimovich’s talk at the final plenary, the theme of no deal is better than a bad deal when it comes to Iran could clearly be heard from right, left and center politicians and security officials.
The PM told attendees that an Iran without a nuclear weapon was good not only for Israel, but also for the world. But, he said, “For us, it is a matter of our existence.”
Netanyahu lashed out at the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, namely United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom and France, plus Germany) who at the time of this writing was negotiating with Iran in Geneva. He said agreeing to lighten sanctions on Iran because it comes to the table pleading is making a bad deal. He said Iran is ready to negotiate because the sanctions are having impact and that if the P5+1 placed demands on Iran to cease and desist the building of capabilities to produce atomic bombs, and Iran is on its knees, why now would we want to come to a deal without Iran dismantling anything?
Elyezer Shkedy, a retired Israeli Air Force major and president of El Al, said “I think we should do everything in order to prevent them [Iran] from getting nuclear capability. I think we should, at least in the beginning, work with the U.S. But in the end, the prime minister of Israel is the leader of the State of Israel and the Jewish nation around the world, and he will have to be able to look into the mirror and know he is doing the right thing.”
Minister of Finance Yair Lapid also spoke in terms of a potential military attack. He said some people draw parallels between the Iranian threat and the Holocaust. He said he refused to believe it was inevitable that Iran would have nuclear capabilities and made clear, “No one will scare us anymore. We have the capabilities to protect ourselves.”
While he noted that “diplomacy is always better than war,” he said that when in discourse with people who “lie for a living” one has to be extra careful.
“My role is to bring alternative ideas to the public, to speak out and challenge the government,” said Yacimovich in reference to her role as the head of the opposition party. “But sometimes we must put aside our disagreements. There is no disagreement that Iran must be stopped from getting the bomb.”
Maayan Jaffe is JT editor-in-chief — firstname.lastname@example.org