The recent disclosures by Wikileaks prove that the Obama Administration, and its water carrier J Street, were dead wrong in repeatedly asserting that the only way to get Arab support for tough policies toward Iran’s nuclear weapons program is for Israel to end the occupation of the West Bank. There are good reasons for Israel to reach an agreement with the Palestinians leading to a two state solution, but garnering Arab support against Iran is not one of them. The Wikileaks proved beyond any doubt that Israel’s Arab neighbors have a strong, independent basis for wanting to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons power.
The recently released cables establish that Saudi Arabia was pushing the United States to bomb Iranian nuclear sites; these cables never mentioned the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Nor were the Saudis alone in calling for the United States to cut off the “head of the snake.” Other Arab nations were banging the drum for a military attack as well. Indeed there is evidence that the Saudis and Israelis-who have no diplomatic relations-have discussed military options against their common enemy.
Ever since the Obama Administration tried to put pressure on Israel by linking the end of the occupation to Iran, I have pointed out the absurdity of this linkage. But General David Petraeus, Secretary of State Robert Gates and Vice President Joe Biden have all insisted that the continuing occupation has made Arab states less willing to cooperate with the United States in preventing Iran from developing nuclear bombs. This party line view has been parroted, as usual, by various representatives of J Street.
Not only has this linkage never been true, but we now know that the Obama Administration has long been aware that the Arab states are as anxious as Israel about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. This information was contained in diplomatic cables that date back months, if not years. Why then would the Obama Administration deliberately mislead the public in regard to so important a matter? The same question must be asked of the Bush Administration, which also misled the public when it came to Iran by releasing the National Security Estimate in November 2007 that falsely concluded that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program.
The answer may well be that both the Obama and Bush Administrations realize that nothing, short of a military attack, will stop Iran from developing deliverable nuclear weapons. Since both administrations have apparently taken any military option off the table, they seem to have accepted a policy of “containment.” But containment is not a policy. It is an admission of failure. And failure requires a scapegoat. If Israel does not end the occupation, and Iran does develop nuclear weapons, it will be easy to blame Israel rather than the United States for this game-changing development.
In an op ed in this past Sunday’s New York Times, Chas Freeman-the anti-Israel zealot whose nomination to become Chair of the National Intelligence Council was withdrawn under pressure-has already tried to cast blame on Israel. He argues that notwithstanding the clear language of the recently released cables, the Gulf Arabs do not want the United States to attack Iran. Nor did the cables, according to Freeman, “demonstrate a basis for Arab-Israeli solidarity against Tehran.” This is patent nonsense, reflecting Freeman’s bias, rather than reality. He also argues, with typical contempt of history, that the only country that ever says no in the Middle East is Israel, forgetting that Israel has on several occasions offered to end the occupation and accept a two state solution. Freeman conveniently forgets that when the occupation first began, Israel offered to return the land captured in a defensive war in exchange for peace with its Arab neighbors. All the Arab states convened in Khartoum and issued their three famous “nos”: No negotiation, no recognition, no peace. So much for Freeman’s credibility.
The truth is that the Palestinians have marginalized themselves in the Middle East by rejecting offers that the Arab states have urged them to accept. Iran is the 800 pound gorilla in the area, and all the other countries in the Middle East recognize that and have a common interest in preventing so irresponsible a regime from working together with North Korea to develop nuclear rockets.
The Wikileaks prove what many of us have been saying for years: that the United States, as the leader of the free world, must stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons-whatever it takes. Although an air and rocket attack should remain an absolutely last resort, this military option must remain on the table. If all else fails and the United States must resort to military action, the Arab world will support such action (at least in private), regardless of whether Israel and the Palestinian Authority finally make peace.
Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard University.