Red Lines and Deadlines on Iran

September 12, 2012

By J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami

J Street is troubled by the escalating rhetoric around Iran – and especially by recent remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that seem to directly challenge the “moral right” of the United States to refuse to set a public deadline for military action against Iran.

The United States – from President Obama on down and across both sides of the partisan divide – is deeply concerned about the purposes and intentions of Iran’s nuclear program and firmly committed to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

However, many Americans, including J Street, are deeply concerned over the possibility of another war in the Middle East and believe that everything should be done to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon without resorting to military force, though that is always an American option.

Prime Minister Netanyahu should clarify that he did not mean to question the commitment of the United States or of the President to the goal of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran. Such heated rhetoric in the midst of an American political campaign threatens to make the US-Israel relationship into even more of an American political football. The appearance of interference in our domestic politics runs the risk of weakening the long-term US-Israel relationship, a cornerstone of Israel’s security.

Over the past few days, J Street has been proud to host Lt. Gen. (ret.) Dani Haloutz, former Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces in a series of public and private briefings on the topic of how best to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Gen. Haloutz has repeatedly said that there is still time for serious diplomacy and sanctions to work and that there is nothing to be gained from the public calls for deadlines and red lines.

This is a consistent message emanating from both Israeli and American security and intelligence officials. Beating the drums of war and pushing persistently for ever-more bellicose positions is not the best strategy for achieving the results we desire.

We urge the President to stay the course – with continued pressure on the Iranian regime and an open door to possible diplomatic resolution of this conflict.