The Washington Free Beacon, citing Haaretz, reports that the Obama administration is considering applying sanctions to Israel because of ongoing settlement activity. The settlement activity is occurring in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Israel has been in control of that area since the 1967 War, when Egypt, Syria, and Jordan together attacked Israel after the Jewish state launched preemptive strikes against a mobilizing Egyptian army. The third Arab war commenced in an attempt to destroy Israel.
The mere consideration of sanctions against Israel presents a stark contrast to the administration’s resistance to additional sanctions on Iran. The U.S. Senate, for its part, fears that a weak deal with Iran would guarantee Iran the time and space to reach its goal of nuclear weapons. On November 20, nearly half of the Senate signed a letter expressing that to the president. The Senate wants legislation that restores punitive sanctions in the event an effective deal is not negotiated by the current deadline.
Let’s summarize here. Israel, the only functioning democracy in the Middle East and a singular American ally in the region, is being considered for sanctions. The U.S. is Israel’s largest single trading partner (the EU as a whole is the largest), meaning that we are in a position to damage Israel’s economy. But the terror state of Iran enjoys the administration’s protection from additional sanctions. The official line has been that while sanctions brought the Iranians to the table, additional sanctions will damage the negotiations.
The U.S. and the West have been working on negotiations with Iran off and on since 2003. In 2002, Iranian opposition activists revealed the construction of a uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and a heavy water plant at Arak. In 2003, Iran agreed to suspend uranium enrichment; in 2004 they re-commenced enrichment activities. In 2006 three U.N. resolutions attempted to bring Iran to heel, and the waltz of negotiations was set.
Three consistent trends have been in place over the past 14 years: negotiations typically resume when Iran feels a squeeze; they are used by Iran to buy time; and Iran never actually abides by its agreements. Additional evidence of Iranian intentions comes from the parallel program to build a plutonium reactor like North Korea’s, which would enable the Iranians to make plutonium as well as enriched-uranium warheads. Iran publically announced, in 2010, that it had enriched uranium to 20%, a level of enrichment that puts Iran at the threshold for weapons grade enrichment. It takes a long time to get to 20% enrichment, but the enrichment process accelerates as a geometric progression from that point forward.
Logic can’t account for this administration’s view that getting tough on Israeli apartment construction in Jewish neighborhoods represents good foreign policy, but negotiations with Iran to avert an existential threat demand weakness and appeasement. On November 24, the Institute for Science and International Security reported on Iranian compliance with the current framework for negotiations. They report the IAEA has confirmed that enrichment continues, and there appears to have been a “temporary” violation of the framework agreement. (Oops.) Perhaps the fact that the “temporary” violation involved Iran’s newest and most sophisticated IR-5 centrifuges is merely coincidence.
To those who have watched the evolution of Iranian negotiations, the current delay and extension of negotiation deadlines is a continuation of the same old patterns. The result of these “negotiations” has been a massive expansion of Iran’s nuclear program over the past 14 years. Moreover, we don’t know what we don’t know: experts are unsure if we have actually identified the entirety of the Iranian program.
Russian land grabs, Chinese cyber warfare, ISIS, the rise of Islamic extremism – nothing much happening on those fronts. But we do have set our sights firmly set on those apartments in East Jerusalem.