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 Leadership Briefing 
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Iran and Other Middle East Challenges Facing Israel and the United States
September 28, 2012

Iran’s steady march towards nuclear weapons capability remains the most pressing issue in the Mideast, said analysts during a call hosted by The Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, together with their shared initiative, the Israel Action Network.

The call, which followed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to the United Nations on Thursday, featured former Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dore Gold, now president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and Jeffrey Goldberg, national correspondent for The Atlantic and Bloomberg View.

“The West must find a way to ratchet the pressures [on Iran] up through economic sanctions, through a red line, and through the threat of military force,” Gold told more than 250 members of the Jewish Federation community who joined the call. “If we continue the way we’re going, Iranians will cross the nuclear finish line.”

Both Gold and Goldberg addressed Netanyahu’s increasingly urgent directive to “draw a red line” in Iran’s nuclear weapons quest, which the prime minister highlighted during his UN speech with a diagram of a bomb. By next spring, said Netanyahu, Iran could be 90 percent of the way towards weapons-grade enriched uranium.

“The issue of when it’s too late [to address the Iranian threat] is different for both countries,” said Goldberg, noting that the American red line is not as urgent as the Israeli red line. “The U.S. has time, and it has the capabilities, should it ever go down the military path, to deal with Iran in a fairly definitive way – not only its nuclear program, but its entire military infrastructure.”

From Israel’s perspective, he continued, “the issue has never been: next Tuesday Iran will have a bomb. The issue is: when is it too late to stop Iran from getting a bomb?”

While Netanyahu has repeatedly advocated for Israel’s sovereign right to protect itself, Goldberg contended that the prime minister has been forced to balance his desire to address the Iranian nuclear threat with his need to protect Israel’s reputation in the U.S. “Prime Minister Netanyahu would have launched an independent strike on Iran a long time ago had he not been so worried about its effect on America – in congress, with the President and in the media,” he said.

Both speakers agreed that the relationship between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama is unlikely to impact the Iran issue. “President Obama would not punish the people or the State of Israel because he does not like the prime minister,” said Goldberg. “President Obama has made it clear that a nuclear-free Iran is in America’s best national security interests.”

With the upcoming elections, strategic differences have been distorted beyond their true meaning. “President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu are very sophisticated people. These are men that are defending national interests,” Gold said. “They have true differences, but their strategic interests are compatible.”

Also compatible, continued Gold, are the strategic interests of most other countries in the Mideast region. “Arab states are as nervous about Iran as Israel is,” he said. “Israel is today leading the charge, but many countries understand that their most vital interests will be affected if Iran crosses a nuclear threshold.”
Goldberg and Gold also addressed other troubling developments in the Mideast, including the mounting security challenges in Sinai to both Israel and Egypt, the recent deadly blasphemy riots, and the rising violence in Syria and its political effects on the region.
“An opportunity is being missed in Syria at this moment – not only a humanitarian opportunity to actually go and help as people are being slaughtered by the thousands – but the opportunity to deny Iran its only Arab ally, which is the Assad regime,” said Goldberg.

To listen to the full recording of this call, click here.

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