Hobson’s Choice

If somebody is looking for an excuse to stop building in the settlements in Judea and Samaria, the Iranian bomb is not a legitimate excuse.


By Moshe Arens

(A version of this column appeared in Haaretz on September 2, 2009.)

Given the choice between continuing building in the settlements in Judea and Samaria or being threatened by an Iranian nuclear bomb, what would you choose? Well, that’s really a no-brainer. If these are the only choices open to us, stop building in Judea and Samaria, by all means. And maybe for good measure stop building in Tel Aviv as well, just to be on the safe side. What matter if people are left homeless, anything is better than total destruction.

Who is offering us this Hobson’s choice? Is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proposing to turn off the centrifuges in Natanz if Israel were to stop building in Judea and Samaria? Or has Ayatollah Khamenei issued a fatwa in this regard? Actually, no such thing.

Did U.S. President Barack Obama whisper to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at their meeting in Washington that if he wants the United States to take care of the Iranian nuclear threat he better stop the construction in the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria? And if the construction continues, Obama will wash his hands of the whole matter and Netanyahu will only have himself to blame for the consequences. Well, that’s not very likely either. A nuclear-armed Iran is a nightmare for the United States, and the president of the United States cannot very well ignore this challenge regardless of whether Israel builds in Judea and Samaria.

So now we come to a more convoluted argument, which goes something like this: In order to impose economic sanctions on Iran, the United States needs the support of a regional Arab coalition – Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia – and these countries will not lend their support for such sanctions unless Israel ceases to build in Judea and Samaria. But that seems almost preposterous. These countries really do not weigh very heavily in the scales when it comes to the imposition of sanctions against Iran, but even if that were to turn out to be a major consideration in the American decision-making process when it comes to arresting Iran’s race for nuclear armaments, would any of these countries really opt for a nuclear Armageddon in the region if Israel does not cease building in Judea and Samaria?

So what is the origin of this hypothetical non-dilemma that must be keeping Israelis awake at night these past few months? Is it the result of the feverish imagination of some of our news media? Regardless of just who has been promoting this ludicrous idea, its origin surely lies in the fact that for the past few years Israeli leaders have been first in line to sound the alarm bells and push the panic button regarding the Iranian effort to attain nuclear armaments. They have hardly talked about anything else.

At every public appearance and at each meeting with a world leader, this issue is first on the agenda. We are concerned, we are worried, another Holocaust may be on the way, and we insist that something be done about this before it is too late, they keep saying. Well, needless to say, they are leaving themselves open for the counterpunch – if you are in such a panic about this, how about doing a little something for the Palestinians and stopping to build in the settlements in Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem?

In fact, the nuclear arms race in Iran is a major problem for the United States, probably more important than all other serious problems on the president’s agenda at this time. It needs to be dealt with regardless of whether Israel is talking about it. Obama is being briefed regularly about the intelligence community’s appraisal of the situation, and is his advisers are presenting him with all the alternate courses of action open to him. He needs no wake-up call from Israel. The phrase “all options are on the table” is overused, and Israel is not likely to influence the president’s ultimate decision, which will be taken with America’s best interests in mind, nothing else. We certainly do not need to create the impression that Israel is trying to drag the United States into a military adventure.

If somebody is looking for an excuse to stop building in the settlements in Judea and Samaria, the Iranian bomb is not a legitimate excuse. The settlements do not appear as a variable in the Iranian nuclear equation.

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