Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The world is starting to understand

The world is starting to understand

Eli Hazan

On July 10, 1996, shortly after he was elected prime minister the first time, Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a joint session of the U.S. Congress. During that speech, Netanyahu pointed a finger at anti-democratic regimes in the Middle East, specifically calling the Iranian government a despotic, militant and fanatic regime, and warned that if Iran obtained nuclear weapons it would pose a danger not just to Israel but also to the Middle East and the entire world.

Leftists in Israel, still stunned by the knockout blow delivered by Netanyahu to Shimon Peres and the realization that the Oslo peace process was not a top priority for the people of Israel but rather the opposite, criticized Netanyahu's speech in an exaggerated fashion. They even argued that Netanyahu was dreaming, partly because he claimed that his government was promoting a long-term process of reducing generous American financial aid by increasing Israel's economic independence.

The years have passed and the same leftists who then scorned statements against Iranian armament now criticize statements calling for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. Also, the contempt shown toward declaring Israel's economic independence has turned into disdain for the policies that Netanyahu took as finance minister, policies that included practical steps to achieve that independence. We should not forget that today we face a reality in which the economic crisis in America is making it harder for the U.S. to finance its friends. Israel is therefore being forced, in any case, to turn to economic policies that do not rely on foreign government funding, creating the reality of private foreign investment. Netanyahu's vision on this matter will become reality, no matter what.

Netanyahu's speech from July 1996 is very relevant today. This is because Western nations, which in the past did nothing about Iran's statements and actions regarding nuclearization, have recently come to understand that we are facing a decisive moment of truth. For economic reasons, not all countries are ready to adopt firm policies, even as the U.S., Britain and Germany are acting to strengthen economic sanctions on Iran. This unwillingness is mainly due to the foreign policies of Russia, China and North Korea. But the action taken by the Canadian government, which cut its diplomatic relationship with Iran, was a very meaningful first step, a type of crossing the diplomatic rubicon. The Canadians, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, apparently understand better than anyone the Iranian threat, leading them to take this unusual step, which was desirable from Israel's view.

Canada is not considered around the world as equal to the U.S., but its power and role in international relations should not be overlooked. Canada, for example, was one of the founders of NATO and played a main role in the Cold War against the Soviet Union. The Canadian economy is one of the strongest in the world and Canada plays a considerable role in the U.N., even though it is not a permanent member of the Security Council. The most important component is Canada's close relationship with the U.S., it is almost as if they are twins. It is therefore possible that Canada is a pioneer, paving the way for other countries.

Does this mean that Israel should abandon the option of attacking Iran? Of course not. But if major countries of the world adopt Canada's policy on Iran, Israel will have to reconsider. This is exactly what Netanyahu's goal was in his July 1996 speech, that the world would understand and act, for the sake of Israel, the Middle East, and mainly itself.