IN VIENNA, IRANIAN NEGOTIATORS REFUSE TO BUDGE ON THE NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM
The complex game of chess originated in India, the Iranians claim to have introduced key features, such as the term ‘check-mate; which is derived from the Persian words “sahk makt,” which translates into “the king has fallen.” Will this be the fate of the ongoing, but stalled nuclear negotiations in Vienna?
At present, the “Persian” negotiators appear to have check-mated their American counterparts with a flat rejection of any restrictions on the Iranian nuclear weapons program specifically, Iranian enrichment of weapons-grade uranium for their ballistic missiles “to wipe Israel off the map.” US Secretary of State Tony Blinken appears dazed by this Iranian approach. Meanwhile, Israeli leaders repeatedly declare they will not sit idly by if the leader of the free world submits to Tehran’s threats.
In a telephone conversation with Blinken, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett referred to Iran’s ‘nuclear blackmail’ and Tehran’s demand that all the international sanctions be lifted. Blinken is obviously consulting with President Biden on ‘what do we do now?’ Personally, I wouldn’t put it past the Iranians to budge a bit by making an eleventh-hour marginal concession, but not one that slows down their nuclear weapons project.
In light of this dismal state of affairs, does Israel have the nuclear capability to destroy Iran’s nuclear weapons project (bearing in mind that it is diversified in several separate locations, some deep underground)? One can only draw differing conclusions from the experts while the crisis deepens. Defense Minister Benny Gantz has declared,
“A military option must always be on the table in confronting Iran. Obviously, it is the last thing we wish to employ, but we have no alternative but to prepare such an option.”
Bear in mind, a military strike against Iran’s nuclear targets would trigger a massive rocketing of the Jewish state by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, a staunch Iranian ally. And Hezbollah is known to have hidden Iranian rockets underground in many villages around the Israeli-Lebanese border. In addition, Hamas in Gaza would again rocket Israeli towns and villages, as they did earlier this year. Still, at this point in time, Iran shows no sign of halting or even slowing down their declared goal to put Israel in their nuclear bombsight.
Israel and Jordan reinforce their peace deal
While the winds of war are blowing between Israel and Iran, the Jewish state and neighboring Jordan have reinforced their “good neighbor” relations. In 1994, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin followed in the footsteps of Egypt and signed a fulled-fledged peace treaty. Over the years, the reigning king Abdallah has also cracked down on Palestinian terrorism from across the border. In return, Israel, with its expertise in water, desalinization has been supplying a ‘thirsty’ Jordan that is threatened with severe water shortage.
Now the two states have signed a new major water-electricity deal. Isreal will provide Jordan with a wapping 25% of its entire freshwater requirements. In return, the Hashimite Kingdom will supply the Jewish state with an estimated 8% of its growing electricity requirements. This again highlights the historical and, at times, secret relationship between Israel and Jordan. I can personally attest to this. In September 1970, I was serving in an IDF combat unit, and we were stationed near the juncture of the Jordanian and Syrian borders in the north. At the time, Jordan’s army was fighting a bitter war inside Jordan with Palestinian insurgents headed by Yasser Arafat. Syrian President Hafez Assad was a bitter rival of Hussein (king of Jordan) and a supporter of the PLO.
In the midst of this bloody confrontation between the Jordanian army and the PLO, Assad ordered Syrian tanks to cross the border into Jordan to support the Palestinians and possibly depose the Jordanian monarch. In light of the situation, Jordan’s king Hussein then got on the hotwire to US President Richard Nixon seeking America’s urgent support. Remember, in those days, there were no diplomatic ties between Jordan and Israel. So Nixon then called Prime Minister Golda Meir to come to Jordan’s aid. Golda then turned to the Israeli air force, and that’s when my buddies and I witnessed several fights of Israeli jets flying overhead for the Jordanian-Syrian border. The Israeli aircraft then made dummy passes over the Syrian tanks, advancing into Jordan. Syrian president Assad apparently got the message and ordered his tanks to turn around and pull back from the Jordanian border area. It took time – but 24 years later, a smiling King Hussein signed a peace treaty with a beaming Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin.
Tel Aviv – the most expensive city in the world
In Israel’s metropolis Tel Aviv, housing prices have skyrocketed in the past years. Tel Aviv is the economic hub of Israel. It attracts thousands of young Israelis annually, and with good reason. Israeli hi-tech companies flourish there, jobs are more readily available, and Israel’s fun city is blessed with beautiful beaches, and a flourishing nightlife adorned with streets of cafes. So in recent years, throngs of mostly young Israelis have made a beeline to this growing metropolis with its expanding suburbs, so much so that the prestigious English-weekly “Economist” has awarded Tel Aviv with the dubious title of the world’s most expensive city. It beat out Paris and Singapore that tied for second place. And, get this, New York came in 6th, while Los Angles took 9th place! But seriously, Tel Aviv’s mayor, Ron Huldai, warns that prices will continue to skyrocket in his city if the government does not take steps to introduce building programs that will lower real-estate prices.
Bennett’s self-inflicted headache
It is fair to say Israel’s new Prime Minister has steered a steady course since taking office on June 13th. He has coped with COVID-19, got the economy back on track, and avoided some other major potholes, such as the settlement issue. Although a strong settlement supporter, Israel’s new Prime Minister balanced the building of some new Israeli homes at an existing West Bank settlement while also announcing more Palestinian home-building in a disputed area of the West Bank. But then, an unexpected blooper from a very embarrassing quarter.
Bennet had called on Israelis not to go abroad during the current Hanukkah holiday. But then, low and behold, it was Bennett’s own wife and their four children who had themselves packed their bags and flown overseas for a holiday! Naturally, the media hauled the Prime Minister over the coals. For once, Naftali was left more or less speechless. Now, several days later, the embarrassed Prime Minister has failed to give any real explanation, but make no mistake, Naftali and his wife Gilat appear to be a very happy couple with a proud family.