A: First of all, the international issue where President Obama has most often profoundly and loudly disagreed with many of the world’s democracies is in his fervent defense of Israel, so we’re glad that he isn’t afraid to disagree with a country—even a close friend—on an issue just because that country is a democracy.
Second, do you really believe that democratically elected leaders never misjudge their country’s security interests? That somehow success at the ballot box makes a president or prime minister immune to mistakes? Here at home, we only have to go back to the beginning of the last decade and the decision to go to war in Iraq to find a catastrophic mistake made by the world’s oldest democracy—and the fact that George W. Bush was democratically elected didn’t make him right on that one either.
On Iran, President Obama does disagree with Prime Minister Netanyahu—a disagreement that both leaders acknowledge is a disagreement among friends, or as the president has said, a disagreement “among family.”
But let’s take all the politicians out of the equation for a minute, and let’s recognize that according to America’s best experts on nonproliferation and Middle East security, the deal with Iran makes all of us more secure—the U.S., Israel, our other allies, the world. I’m referring to arms-control experts, retired military, even respected Republican voices like Brent Scowcroft, Dick Lugar, and John Warner. Are they all disrespecting Israel’s democracy by differing from Bibi Netanyahu? Of course not. They’re exercising their expert judgment.
Perhaps most telling, ask yourself why Israelis who have spent their entire lives in uniform—experts with decades of experience in non-political, professional security roles defending Israel’s security—are speaking out to argue that this agreement is in Israel’s best interests? Every one of them has dedicated their life to defending Israel. Every one of them believes an Iran with a nuclear bomb is an existential threat to their country—and not a single one of them “trusts” Tehran. But it is no coincidence that dozens of Israeli security experts from Uzi Eilam, former head of Israel’s Atomic Energy Agency; Major General Israel Ziv, the former head of the Operations Directorate of the IDF; to former Shin Bet head Ami Ayalon and former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy, are praising elements of the agreement and questioning the prime minister’s decision to lobby Congress against it. Thank goodness Israel is a democracy so we can see clearly that it’s not just the president who thinks Prime Minister Netanyahu has this one wrong, but some of Israel’s preeminent security experts as well.
3. Constructive, respected, well-informed observers, like your former [National Security Council] Iran policy advisor Dennis Ross, have urged you to propose transferring to Israel the “mountain-busting”Massive Ordnance Penetrator as a way to boost Israel’s independent deterrence against Iran. But you have not done so. Instead, in your letter to Congressman [Jerrold] Nadler, you highlighted your administration’s plan to send Israel a much less capable weapon. Why are you reluctant to send Israel the best item we have in our inventory to address this profound threat?