Again, last Tuesday Israel’s prime-minister Benyamin Netanyahu proved that he is the best performer in the political arena in the world, even better than President Obama. His talent for phrasing and rhythm, cadence is unsurpassed. And we are not even talking about his ability to create a dramatic structure for his speeches. He delivered. And the points he scored, were impressive. But he forgot an essential element.
We now know that President Hussein Obama talked to president Hassan Rouhani – in Iran, jokes about these names (in Islamic history, Hussein and Hassan were brothers) arise as flowers in the spring.
President Obama cannot completely exclude the idea that President Rouhani is the very beginning of the Iranian spring. Many commentators agree with him. Christiane Amanpour had an interview with president Rouhani and she, and the entire CNN staff, heard him saying words that other people did not hear, like the complicated word ‘holocaust’. According to her, president Rouhani is a moderate and a reformer, so she hears moderate and reforming things.
Many in the present administration think that is the case and that under Rouhani’s leadership the Islamic Republic of Iran is heading towards a new phase in its existence. Well, as long as he is not the wolf in sheep’s clothing, as Bibi Netanyahu claims he is.
Barack and Hassan talked with each other, and we may assume that they did not talk about the seasons but about how to proceed with talking. Both presidents are brilliant talkers about talking, so we may rejoice in looking forward to many talks about talking.
But both Barack and Hassan have problems since their phone call. For Barack the problem is: now that they have talked, he owns the issue of talking with Iran. As long as there were only raving madmen as Hassan’s predecessor talking nonsense, it was relatively easy to avoid direct responsibility for the issue of Iran’s nuclear project. There were no official talks, and some threats about distant actions were enough to calm public opinion. President Barack has no intentions at all to risk a war for the sake of Israel or the Gulf States. But that period of freedom is gone since he started talking. He has to find a peaceful solution. He cannot allow the luxury of distrusting his partner in Tehran.
And president Hassan has a similar problem: he pretends to be a moderate. Which means he has to talk and walk as a moderate, which could enrage the conservatives in the Tehran establishment who cannot stand moderate talking. Hassan has to cover the nuclear project of the conservatives while talking moderately to Hussein. Can he pull this off? In the past he could wonderfully. But he is now a president, and he is being watched carefully. Imagine how the American Congress has to react when it finds out that the talks were just, well, talks. They are both stuck in their talks, these talkers.
Israel’s premier Netanyahu does not buy the idea that president Hassan is a moderate man. For good reasons. He explained those reasons in his UN speech. I admire Bibi Netanyahu, but but I believe he made a tactical mistake.
The best thing he could have done was: go along with the talkers. Join them and don’t behave as a party spoiler. Barack and Hassan have a talking party, so join them even if they haven’t invited you. Don’t suggest that Hassan is just a wolf with a smile. Don’t suggest that Barack is a dangerous fool. No. Israel’s premier should have said that he had some reservations but that he was excited that these two important talkers are talking and that he dies to join them talking. Because this is the best thing you can do with talkers like Obama and Rouhani. Take them for what they pretend to be. Talk to them as if they really are moderate talkers talking about peace, love and understanding.
And he should have made another statement, a historical statement: he should have invited Hassan to come to Israel and visit Yad Vashem. Hassan is a moderate man, and he has acknowledged the Holocaust, Christiane Amanpour has heard him saying, so he will be interested in being informed by great historians about the scope of Europe’s mass murder of the Jews.
Israel’s premier made the mistake of trying to explain to the free world that Hassan Rouhani is just a talker. The problem is that the free world, at least: its leftist representatives in the media, is not interested in facts. No. The free world wants to hear an upbeat narrative beyond the facts. The premier should have expressed the hope that Barack and Hassan will talk their way into some kind of resolution of the nuclear problem and that he is happy to welcome the president of Iran in Yad Vashem.
So, Mr. Netanyahu, you can correct your mistake: invite president Rouhani! Let him come to Jerusalem – and if that is one step too far, invite him to a Tel Aviv beach talking session with Holocaust historians! Give Hassan Rouhani the chance to show that he is a moderate and reform-minded man. Hassan’s reply to Bibi’s invitation will expose the wolf under the sheep’s cover, or, who knows?, a gentle, huggable sheep with an humane smile. Challenge Rouhani.
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