Israel, Iran and Middle East Realities

– an international round table discussion
by Jerry Gordon and Mike Bates (October 2009)

Just as President Obama was approaching a denouement over possible Middle East peace efforts and grappling with a truculent Islamic Republic of Iran with its relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems, the fifth in a series of international panel discussions sponsored by Northwest Florida talk radio station 1330AM WEBY and the New English Review (NER) aired in late September.  Subsequently, there were stunning revelations about a “hidden” nuclear enrichment facility buried in a mountain above the city of Qom and missile tests by the Islamic Republic of Iran. These pre-occupied the agenda of a series of multi-lateral and bi-lateral meetings in Geneva involving representatives of the UN Security Council and the Obama Administration. The outcome of those meetings in early October is , at best, unclear. Of particular concern are the positions of both China and Russia regarding possible new sanctions and proposals for third party enrichment of uranium to be used in Iranian nuclear facilities. Strong US Congressional support exists for implementation of a possible quarantine of gasoline and diesel fuel deliveries to Iran from foreign offshore refiners and additional financial sanctions. Moreover, there is increasing debate as to whether a military option involving an attack on Iranian nuclear and missile facilities could have a lasting deterrent effect. Further, there is international concern about the effects of a possible unilateral Israeli attack, should the US not pursue such an option.

It is against this background that the WEBY-NER radio panel discussed the prevailing issues regarding likely Middle East peace proposals, retreats from the Bush Administration European Missile Defense initiative by the Obama Administration, the roiling Iranian nuclear and missile threats, Israeli PM Netanyahu’s mysterious trip to Russia, the much maligned UN Goldstone Report on alleged human rights violations by Israel and Hamas during Operation Cast lead in Gaza and the emergence of an alleged “pro Israel, pro Peace lobby group,” J Street, functioning with Arab, Iranian and leftist financial support against Israel’s interests.

Co-hosts for this discussion were Michael Bates, WEBY general manager and host of “Your Turn,” and NER senior editor, Jerry Gordon. Included in the panel discussion were Jonathan Schanzer, associate executive director of the Jewish Policy Center in Washington, DC, author of “Hamas versus Fatah” and Daniel Diker, Jerusalem-based foreign affairs Analyst and Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. 

Michael Bates: Good afternoon and welcome to “Your Turn.” This is Mike Bates and this is a special edition of “Your Turn” today. It is our international roundtable discussion about things going on in the Middle East with Israel in particular. With me in the studio is Jerry Gordon. He is my co-host and a frequent guest here on “Your Turn.” He is the senior editor at New English Review and its blog, The Iconoclast. Welcome to the program, Jerry.

Jerry Gordon: Glad to be back

Bates: Joining us from Washington DC, is Jonathan Schanzer. He is the DC- based Deputy Executive Director of the Jewish Policy Center. Welcome Jonathan.

Jonathan Schanzer: Thank you

Bates: And live from Jerusalem is Dan Diker. He is the Jerusalem- based foreign affairs Analyst and Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Welcome Dan, to “Your Turn.”

Dan Diker: Shalom from Jerusalem

Bates: Shalom. There is a lot going on in the news about Israel and the Middle East. I could actually say that probably any day of the year. It seems like there is always something we need to discuss. There’s always something happening. Benjamin Netanyahu went to Russia recently and met with President Medvedev and with Prime Minister Putin. Jonathan, what was that discussion about 

Schanzer: Well, there is a lot of speculation. A lot of people think that the Prime Minister went to Russia to try to get their blessings for perhaps what would be a preemptive strike against the Iranian nuclear facilities that have been identified by Israeli intelligence and Israel’s allies. This has been denied vociferously by both sides, but what I could probably tell you is that there may be another angle to it that I think has not really received a lot of attention in the press thus far. That angle is the Iranian surface to air defense during Israel’s attack on Syria’s nuclear reactor in September, 2007. That was a test run for Israel. Israel attacked the Syrian reactor successfully destroyed it and the Iranians watched very carefully, learning how to perhaps bolster their defenses against an Israeli air strike. it’s possible that they have upgraded their defense system and it is also quite possible that Israel had gone to Russia asking for information on how to evade some of the defense measures that may have been put in place. This is just one explanation among many, but I think that certainly played a part in these discussions.

Diker: The Netanyahu government in Jerusalem has mixed reactions to Russia’s position in the Middle East and the Middle East peace process in general. Many are asking what side is Russia really on? Russia is caught between East and West between Iran and the Western alliance and Jerusalem. In more recent years Israel has become a sanctuary for many Russian oligarchs who have made massive investments in Israel and, unfortunately, conducted money laundering. Billions of dollars that have come from Russia. Our Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman is a former Russian national. So Russian immigration and stepped up relations with Russia is a positive. On the other hand, there are some disturbing developments and that was of Israel’s attack on what turned out to be a Syrian nuclear reactor while a Russian anti-missile defense system was deployed in Syria. Syria also enjoys Russian naval presence in the Mediterranean port of Tartus as well as other Russian backing. The S-300 anti-missile system has been sold by Russia to the Iranian regime. This has been of great concern to Israel. Regarding Netanyahu’s secret 10 hour junket to Russia, I think it was a mistake to try to shroud this meeting in such secrecy. Israeli leaders go on one day junkets all the time and I think the secrecy added an unnecessary sense of mystery to the story. The Prime Minister’s office was caught, frankly, in a lie by the Israeli media and then tried to cover it up.   Was Netanyahu in Israel? Was he in Moscow? That unfortunately blew the story into proportions that it should not have assumed.

Bates: Well, adding to a lot of that uncertainty in the media reports, Medvedev was quoted as saying that Israeli President Peres said, “Israel does not plan to launch any strikes on Iran. We are a peaceful country and we will not do this.” The Netanyahu government said “we didn’t say that!” So, which do you think is accurate?

Diker: Well, there’s a tremendous amount of misinformation going around and obviously, Russia is trying to balance its interests in this very delicate dance between its relationship with Israel, the West, and Iran.

Bates: Well, the Russian position is a little hard to understand. For very obvious reasons, the Israelis are concerned about the Iranians getting a nuclear weapon and the United States ought to be equally concerned. I’m not sure we really are, but we ought to be. But even the Russians can’t just shrug their shoulders and say “oh well” because Iran could very easily put Chechnya under their “nuclear umbrella.” And now, what are the Russians going to do with that province? So the Russians have a lot to lose if the Iranians become a nuclear power. Do they not?

Diker: I have news for you, Moscow is on the Iranian target list, and it’s certainly within range of Shehab 3 missiles.

Bates: You would think that would frighten the Russians into supporting sanctions and not blocking military action if it becomes necessary.

Diker: I can’t decode Russian behavior.

Bates: Jon, what do you think?

Schanzer: Well, all I can tell you is from my perch here in Washington; this has been a sickening slide into what appears to be the inevitability of an Iranian nuclear capability. We’ve been talking about this now for years and world leaders proclaimed repeatedly, that they do not want to see Iran achieve nuclear capability, yet nothing has been done about it. Sanctions have not been enforced; new sanctions have not been put into place. Diplomacy has failed repeatedly and we know why. I mean, the Iranian Islamic Republic is not interested in working with the West on this. And we have a President in Iran stating he is proud of the provocations that he has made thus far with the West and we have a President here in the United States that is more interested in Israeli settlements and building in Jerusalem than preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons. So, what we have been watching is this unbelievable chain of events where the world has just sat quietly by as Iran gets closer and closer. And as we have seen there were reports that Iran already has the capability for a crude nuclear weapon it would be able to deploy. It already has a ballistic missile system that would be able to reach Europe. We have got a terrible chain of events here and the world is sitting by watching. What we need to do is to have the world leaders redouble their efforts and warn Iran that if it continues there will be international action. Instead, what we are hearing is more discussions and, I think, a lot of distraction looking at the Arab – Israeli peace process as the linchpin to all of this when in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. 

Gordon: Jon, you’re in DC, what has been the reaction to this nefarious statement, by Brzezinski that U.S. might, in the case of a hypothetical Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, actually engage in shooting down Israeli aircraft?

Schanzer: Well, I met him. You blogged about it, Jerry and it was a good piece. Brzezinski has stated that it would be something like a “Liberty in reverse” referring to the 1967 Liberty incident where the Israelis inadvertently attacked a U.S. intelligence ship. The key there is that it was inadvertently attacked as opposed to what Brzezinski is suggesting, which would be purposely shooting down an Israeli aircraft flying over Iraq en route to Iran. His statement was condemned by those in the Israel community and by those who seek a strong Israel. Within the Obama Administration, the statement was disavowed because Brzezinski is not officially a representative of Obama. But this is the sort of rhetoric that we’re hearing a lot more of under this Administration. The folks who would like to see a weakened Israel are emboldened and continue to make such statements. I would say that, in general, there has been increasing hot air coming out of Washington about a weakened Israel. The Obama Administration is trying to force Israel to make concessions and not allowing it to defend itself in the face of Iranian aggression. So, we’re watching here as Israel’s enemies are emboldened and this is obviously of great concern.

Gordon:  Obama led a U.N. security council session on world nuclear non-proliferation. Was that aimed at Israel’s not so secret nuclear program? What do you believe might be the shape of American proposals on Middle East peace and what do you think the reactions would be in the Netanyahu government?

Diker: Well, I can tell you from Jerusalem’s stand point there is a concern about two positions that Obama took. One, there have been reports coming out of Washington that the President is pursuing a nuclear free Middle East policy. That has not traditionally included Israel as an existing nuclear power. Reports that we have heard here are that Israel would be included in future discussions. The other issue is Obama’s Palestinian plan. The non-summit ‘summit’ that took place on the sidelines of the U.N. at the Waldorf Astoria in New York was really the result of a completely failed policy of the Administration to try to strong-arm Israel into unprecedented preconditions in order to have a meeting. That failed. Therefore, President Obama tried to mollify Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. My sense is that Obama is a firm supporter of the recently released Salam Fayad Unilateral Statehood Plan. The Administration has already deposited two hundred million dollars into the Fayad – controlled PA treasury this summer and another twenty million dollars from the USAID. USAID officers have been involved with unilaterally changing street signs in parts of the West Bank from Hebrew/Arabic to Arabic/English and took more a more activist role in preparing the Palestinian areas for what they see as Statehood. My assessment is that President Obama is leading the charge toward Palestinian Statehood based on the June 4th, 1967 line. This has not been reported in the media. I think that would be of great concern to Israel. That would be a reversal from all previous Israeli – Arab diplomacy in terms of the United States position.

Bates: Jon, describe what you would anticipate that a so-called peace plan would look like.

Schanzer: Well, it’s actually quite simple. What the Obama Administration seems to be latching onto, what the Arab world seems to support, and what the Palestinians continue to clamor for is the Saudi Peace Plan of 2002. Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah proposed that to Thomas Friedman of the New York Times. Basically what he said was that if Israel withdrew to the 1967 pre-Six Day War borders that the Arab world would recognize Israel and enforce peace in the region. What I think troubles most analysts who take a realistic view of the Arab-Israeli conflict is that the Palestinians still do not accept the idea of a Jewish state in the region. They still seek the destruction of the State of Israel. It’s something that is not only seen in the rhetoric of Hamas Charter, which is obviously the most inflammatory, but if you look at the Charter of the Fatah faction, which is the so-called moderate faction, its Charter also continues to call for the destruction of the State of Israel, and some of its prominent members refuse to accept the Jewish state. So, Israel is still stuck in a place where it is being forced to negotiate with its enemies and as my former mentor, Daniel Pipes, used to say “one does not make peace with one’s enemies, one makes peace with one’s former enemies.” Israel is being forced by the Obama Administration to get back to the negotiating table with people who seek to destroy it. 

Gordon:  There was a troubling report in the Jerusalem Post regarding the intentions of the Saudi sponsors of the Arab peace plan. There were revelations from the U.S. Department of Commerce monitoring program that the Saudis had continued the Arab boycott against Israel, that they said they were going to end back in 2005. Instead, Saudi Arabia has actually increased the stringency of that boycott along with other Arab league members. What do you make of that?

Schanzer: Well, from Washington, I can tell you that this is not a surprise for all the countries I have been to in the Arab world, from Iraq to Yemen to Egypt. The hatred for Israel is the lowest common denominator and it is something that the average man on the street in pretty much every Arab country embraces. Not wanting to support the Israeli economy is not a surprise. So I don’t actually see this as breaking news but rather as something that punctuates a problem that has continued to exist. It is one of the reasons why I think we should not expect a lot out of whatever initiatives the Obama Administration has launched thus far because of the sentiments on the street in the Arab world.

Bates: If the Peace Plan, were to bring about peace, it would be awfully difficult to oppose it. Unfortunately any rational thinker with a knowledge of history of the Middle East knows it is not going to bring about peace. Why are we pursuing this ridiculous strategy?

Schanzer: Well, I think you’re right in your assessment. I don’t think that, at this time, it could bring about peace. You know, it is not as if anyone here is objecting to the notion of peace. I mean, everybody would like to see calm in the region, but you cannot ignore certain realities. I think the harshest reality is that the Palestinians still seek the destruction of the State of Israel. Until that changes, I don’t think it is worth the time or the effort of the President of the United States or, the international community, to try to force a square peg into a round hole, and, that is what we’re looking at right here right now. It is the deep desire of this President to be able to achieve peace, just as it was for President Clinton in the 1990’s. That doesn’t mean that it is going to happen. Peace would be wonderful, however, there are realities that get in the way. As of right now, given all the problems on the ground, the Palestinians are in a state of civil war. They cannot even agree on the color of hummus! We just cannot find an interlocutor. Added to that, the Palestinians reject Israel. There are just too many mountains to climb right now to engage in a full court press on the peace process.

Bates: Dan, the clock got in our way as you were commenting on the Palestinian – Israeli conflict. What do you have to add to that discussion?

Diker: There is  the notion in Washington today that the Palestinian – Israeli conflict and its resolution would really trigger a resolution of other conflicts throughout the Middle East. The Obama Administration has taken this line. Israel has been partially responsible for advancing this mistaken notion because of Israel’s desperate search for peace particularly for the past 17 years since Oslo. It was almost 17 years ago when Israel recognized the Palestinian Liberation Organization whose very identity was based on eliminating the State of Israel before Israel actually came into the West Bank in 1967. Israel took this huge risk and it has continued to take risks through the Camp David discussions, the Road Map, and the Annapolis process that ended in utter failure in 2008. Israel crossed every diplomatic red line in offering more and more concessions to obtain a final status Peace agreement with its Palestinian neighbors. It happened with Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000 at Camp David, with Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and then with Olmert’s far reaching Annapolis concessions in 2008. These gestures constitute a policy that I would term “concession based diplomacy” in Israel’s search for peace. That has created massive expectations in this Washington Administration that if you solve this conflict, you solve every other conflict in the Middle East. Actually, it’s completely reversed because, in fact, you could only find resolution for the Palestinians if, the major threats to the Middle East and the international community are  resolved; i.e., the Iranian nuclear threat. 

To reverse this concession driven and defeatist trend Prime Minister Netanyahu is saying “wait a second, let’s get back to security-based diplomacy. Let’s get back to protecting ourselves physically, first, and then, we will determine what risks Israel can take in its diplomacy and not the other way around.”

Bates: And Israel, like any nation, must negotiate from a position of strength. If you are negotiating from a position of weakness, you have nothing to negotiate.

Diker: Well, you’re correct. Israel has a false sense of security because of its “powerful”  army and air force. That false sense of security allows Israel to be overly flexible, negotiate away its vital assets and the very little real estate that it actually has. Remember that the entire State of Israel is smaller than the State of New Jersey including the disputed territories of what we call in Israel, Judea and Samaria, and what the world refers to as the former West Bank of Jordan. it’s a very, very small place.  We have no strategic depth to the east and we have a topographical disadvantage because the West Bank sits above Tel Aviv and all of our other major cities on the Western coast. We do not have much land to play with. Nevertheless, the expectation in the international community is for Israel to withdraw as the Arab Peace plan demands and retreat back to the June 4th, 1967 lines which are very unstable, very fragile. Israel almost lost the country based on those lines in the 1967 war. However, the conventional wisdom is, if you give that concession to the Palestinians they won’t be a real threat and then there will be peace. That could not be further from the truth.

Bates: You speak of the strength of the Israeli Defense Forces and when Israel does use its military, frankly, it appears to me like they’re holding back. Jerry, that didn’t stop the Goldstone Commission Report. What happened with that? What are they alleging and why?

Gordon: I think the UN Goldstone Commission Report is really problematic. A number of critics consider it wrong headed to begin with. Justice Goldstone was, in fact, a liberal Jewish South African jurist before he went up to the international Court of Justice at the Hague. Here he was, conducting a rather slanted investigation filled with nefarious allegations about Israeli human rights violations during Operation Cast Lead. Can you enlighten us as to why this controversy exists now and what could be done about it?

Diker: The more Israel engaged in concession based diplomacy starting in the 90’s the more the Arab world tried to delegitimize Israel. We saw that at the 2001 Durban Anti-Racism Conference that displayed intensive hatred of Israel. This trend amounts to using a double standard  that endeavors to delegitimize, demonize and isolate Israel. This is reflected in the world’s treatment of the State of Israel. I am comfortable saying that I don’t think there is a country in the world today that is so self-monitoring from an international legal point of view on the battle field  than the State of Israel. We have legal officers in every division that, in real time, are actually consulting with the commanding officers as to what is permitted and what is not permitted to do in terms of fighting in urban built up areas. The Goldstone Commission Report has never delved into the major problems that caused Israel’s military response. The Hamas attackers have become the international victims while Israel tried to defend it citizens from more than 10,000 rocket attacks. Those rocket attacks went largely unanswered by Israel military and absolutely unanswered diplomatically by the United Nations. 

Hamas has launched rockets at Israeli towns and villages from within residential dwellings in Gaza. The Report never discussed the fact that there were Palestinian mortar shells that misfired and killed Palestinians and they killed their own civilians. They fired anti tank missiles, rifles, machine guns at Palestinian buildings in Gaza that had been entered by the IDF despite the fact that there were Palestinian civilians in the area. Hamas was doing the firing. The Goldstone Report never delved into these issues. This is a massively one-sided, biased report and should be vomited out by the international community. Again, it is reflective of a double-standard in the world’s treatment of Israel. Look at the United States operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and you tell me why there has never been the equivalent of a Goldstone Report, despite the fact that, by mistake, the United States has killed many civilians in its battles against Al Qaeda and Iranian backed groups in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Gordon: Jon, do you have anything to add?

Schanzer: Number one, the rocket threat that Israel responded to that lead to this war in Gaza cannot be understated. Over the course of about six or seven years, there were thousands of rockets fired into Israeli air space and these were rockets that were fired indiscriminately by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, and several Al Qaeda affiliate groups. They would aim these rockets blindly at Israeli land, hoping that the rockets would hit a house, a school, a car, a gas station and sometimes they did and sometimes they didn’t. And this has been completely downplayed by the Goldstone Commission. Those facts were left out and really leaves the Goldstone Commission Report with zero credibility. Not mentioned, was the fact that there was a lot of violence taking place among the Palestinians themselves during this war. Violence which resulted in a number of casualties, injuries and deaths. Hamas and Fatah were actually at war with one another throughout this conflict as I documented in my book. Hamas was rounding up Fatah members, torturing them, killing them in flagrant violation of international law and human rights. This was not mentioned in the Goldstone Commission Report, which did not look at some of the tougher questions, but instead just looked at the war itself. Even that was a mischaracterization of Israel’s really painful attempts to minimize casualties in the war. I think that is one of things that people tend to forget when they look at the Middle East because there’s always a baseline of conflict there. War is messy and people are unfortunately killed. People are injured and accidents do happen. That is not to say that Israel was wantonly going about and committing violence. Everything Israel did from what I have seen was done with surgical precision and with great care. When accidents happened, they were regrettable. This must be viewed in the context of Israel trying to defend its citizens from the thousands of rockets that were fired into Israeli airspace over the last several years. 

Diker: To add to Jon’s main point, the U.N. faces, in this situation, a terrorist war between state actors and non-state actors. The international human rights laws have not adjusted to this new reality. Israel is basically fighting Iranian proxies on its Southern border with Hamas, on its Eastern border in parts of Judea and Samaria against the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, and in the North against Hezbollah. These proxies cherish death, value death. We cherish life and value life as you do in the United States. So it’s very difficult to protect yourself against terrorist armies that put children in the line of fire and believe they are doing those children a favor. International human rights law has not adjusted itself to this new reality of state actors fighting non-state actors. What the Goldstone Report did was, essentially, compare Israel and the Iranian-backed Hamas as being two similar actors.

Bates: This, despite the fact that there is a huge difference between collateral damage from a surgical military strike and the wanton disregard for civilian life when you’re just launching trajectory rockets that land where they may, kill who they may without a care in the world. To me, it is not even close to a comparison. For the United Nations to condemn only the Israeli side of this conflict is abhorrent.

Schanzer: Well, you know, that’s right. What needs to be underscored here is that you have people who are indiscriminately firing these rockets. These rockets are made with household goods and sewer pipes. Things that could be used to actually help the Gaza population. Hamas has elected not to allow these goods to be used in that way but rather to be fired at Israel. They are fired indiscriminately with the hope that they will hurt somebody not even knowing whether they are combatants or non-combatants. This is a flagrant violation of international law and human rights. The fact is that it was ignored, completely ignored. The problem with Palestinian rockets is one that has gotten zero attention. I think that has to do, quite frankly, with the feeble attempts of the Israel government to explain what is going on. The psychological damage has been done and the intent is there. I think part of the problem is that the world has just not woken up to the fact that rockets are fired on a regular basis out of Gaza. Just in the last month or so, there were five mortar shells that hit the Negev Desert in Southern Israel. In early September, there was a Kassem rocket that was launched from Gaza at Israel. About five days later an Al Qaeda linked group launched Katyushas into Israel on the Fourteenth of September. This is just within the last month. However most people here in the United States are not aware of this and I would say that even the international community is largely blind to it.

Gordon: Israeli polls show deep distrust of the current Obama Administration, although, American polls seem to show greater support for Israel. Why do we have these new, radical, leftist Jewish lobby groups like J Street who are not operating in Israel’s best interests?

Schanzer: Well, it’s a very interesting phenomenon, Jerry, and all I can tell you is that they are not an Israel lobby; J Street is not coordinating with the Israeli government. It used to be that organizations like AIPAC would coordinate with Jerusalem and would work within parameters set by the Israeli Prime Minister. We are not seeing that with groups like J Street. J Street is an upstart organization that really rose to power at the end of the Bush Administration. What they have done has been a masterful stroke thus far. However, I believe they are probably on their way to decline, or one has to hope that they are. What they said was that because AIPAC was working closely with the Bush Administration, AIPAC was positioned as a more right-wing, pro-Republican, pro-Likud lobby. J Street has positioned itself as the other “progressive” choice. So, in a Democratic Administration, they positioned themselves as the ‘go to’ people that the Administration should talk to if they’re interested in peace. Now, for anybody who knows the landscape here, AIPAC is a bi-partisan organization; has worked with Democrats and Republicans alike. However, the way that they have been cast by J Street, thus far, has made it more difficult for them to operate.

Gordon: Jon, who is backing J Street?

Schanzer: Well, there have been some new reports that Arab and Iranian lobbyists and leftist activists have supported J Street. So again, that also raises questions about why they purport to represent the interests of Israel when their supporters are not Israeli or American or have an Israeli or an American interest at heart.

Bates: There are some issues that ought to transcend American politics and ought to transcend Israeli politics. Chief among them, the Iranian nuclear threat. There was a secret report, that the Associated Press claims to have seen, that the IAEA said that Tehran has the ability to make a nuclear bomb and is on the way to developing a missile system that is able to carry an atomic warhead. In light of this, what is behind the Obama Administration’s sudden u-turn on missile defense? Dan Diker, you want to answer that one?

Diker: First of all, there’s a real open question as to why there has not been an international outcry over a hidden appendix in the IAEA report. To hide from the public that the Islamic Republic of Iran can manufacture atomic warheads is extraordinary. That did not make waves. In terms of missile defense, I think that the Administration believed that the decision to pull out the anti missile defense system from central Europe might have some advantages if it were restructured in a different way.

Bates: Well, the threat is not only to ballistic missiles because a few years ago the Iranians launched some missiles off a barge in the Caspian Sea showing that they can project power pretty much anywhere they can float a boat. Is that not an international threat?

Diker: Sure it’s an international threat. That is why the Obama Administration wants to put in a new system that would be more mobile, as opposed to just fixing them in Central and Eastern Europe. Clearly, this has to do a lot with the Russians. There’s a lot more than meets the eye than just the Iranian capability and what appears to be, a very weak U.S. response.

Gordon: But, Dan, we also have the Administration eliminating some significant programs like the airborne laser anti-missile system that could knock out these dangerous intermediate and long-range ballistic missiles on the launching pad. That flies in the face of what the Obama Administration talked about regarding the pullout of the European Missile Defense shield.

Diker: That’s true. I can tell you where Israel is on this. Israel has a very effective Arrow anti missile system. It is quite confident based on tests that have been done over the last number of years. That system works very well. That really throws into great doubt the Iranian ability to launch an effective first strike against Israel. That may be a very significant deterrent if the Iranian regime can be deterred at all. This is a dangerous Messianically- driven regime with the Mullahs, Ahmadinejad and his Revolutionary Guard, the IRGC. From an Israeli point of view, Israel could clearly defend itself. However, it certainly raises a lot of questions here about, what seems to be an unprecedented American weakness in its response.

Bates: Well, I would love to get into that. We’re going to have to do that in our next Round Table Discussion because we have just under a half a minute left. I want to thank all of you for joining me today on “Your Turn.” Jerry Gordon, co-host here in Pensacola, Florida is Senior Editor at the New English Review. Jonathan Schanzer joining us from Washington DC., is the Deputy Executive Director of the Jewish Policy Center. Dan Diker in Jerusalem, is the Jerusalem based foreign affairs Analyst and Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs. Gentlemen, we are out of time but thank you very much for joining us today for this International Round Table Discussion on the Middle East here on 1330, WEBY. Northwest Florida’s talk radio. 
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