Unfinished Script

It was a week in which the art of respectful dialogue appeared lost on the world stage on issues involving Israel and Jews.

Act I: Mr. Netanyahu Invited to Washington.

Act II: Mr. Netanyahu Comes to Washington.

Act III: ???????

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OK, here we are. It’s done. The brilliant, forceful and sometimes strident Bibi has done his thing, warning Congress, America and voters in Israel of the disastrous potential for a P5+1 deal with Iran.

For weeks, we heard why and why not, whether to or whether not to. But from Netanyahu’s perspective, there was very little to lose and a tremendous amount to gain.

Just think about it. The housing issues in Israel are spinning out of control; buying an apartment is 50 percent more expensive than it was just six years ago. Israelis are divided on the settlements and on the prospects of a possible two-state solution. And a scandal, probably small by Jewish State standards, is simmering about supposedly bloated prime minister expenses.

If the Iran issue were out of the news, or if there were a broadly accepted agreement on the table, the chances are exceptionally high that Bibi could be political toast back home. Indeed, the Zionist Union, comprising a coalition of parties formed to build a center/left block, has polled as strong as Netanyahu’s Likud even with the Iran crisis lurking.

As we heard during discussion with highly talented Times of Israel journalists, Haviv Gur and Lazar Berman, at last Thursday’s Can We Talk? event, Iran is hardly the subject of discussion and debate in the Israeli election campaign. Why? Because whether for substantive or political reasons, candidates don’t choose to present an alternative stance that might make them appear less concerned or weaker on the issue.

In other words, at least in public, most mainstream political candidates in Israel agree with Bibi’s stance or something pretty close. They’re trying valiantly to separate themselves on other issues.

So prior to the elections, pushing on toward the speech with Congress has represented Bibi’s best chance. While others in Israel might agree, he’s the one with the pulpit, and there’s no better one than in front of Congress, telecast before the world.

Let’s make one thing clear: We’re not questioning Netanyahu’s sincerity. Though the tactic of coming to Washington without presidential permission is a successful political one, we’re sure Bibi sincerely believes in the mission behind his appearance. What helps him politically also, from his perspective, helps the world.

And then, Bibi spoke. And he spoke as eloquently as always. No, strike that, more elegantly. His pontifications are often from memory, frequently the same old same old. But this time, a ton of effort went into the speech, into the theater of the moment, recognizing Elie Wiesel who was in the room, evoking history, and drawing similarities to the goals, needs and aspirations of Jews, Israelis and Americans.

But with that all done, and even if the visit here helps Bibi over the top in two weeks time, allowing him to retain the prime ministry, there remains the million-dollar question:

Wherefore Iran?

For if Netanyahu and his cohort are successful in beating back the P5+1 and leveraging success in defeating an agreement with Iran, there remains more than a small issue.

For without an agreement, there are only three things that can happen, other than nothing: Continued negotiations; enhanced sanctions, military action.

There’s no way that Bibi or anyone can predict whether new or different negotiations, or more aggressive sanctions, will be successful. And notwithstanding the claims of President Barack Obama’s weakness, both he and Secretary of State John Kerry have indicated a willingness to walk away if they don’t get their terms.

And if there are no talks, or if there’s no ability to get Iran to acquiesce, here’s where we will stand: With Iran having zero limitations on continuing its nuclear development. No limits on centrifuges, no removal of nuclear materiel from inside Iran, no inspections or verifications.

Many have said that no agreement is better than a flawed agreement. But when one starts analyzing the implications of what happens in the absence of any agreement, some important people better start showing us some alternatives that make us safe in the context of no limits.

Because if Iran can continue unabated with the program and there’s no way to stop them, then there may be only one choice, and it’s what, other than a nuclear Iran, we dread the most.

That is, all-out war between Israel, the West and Iran. One that will cost thousands upon thousands of lives.

That’s a solution way down on the morality chain. So we hope that Bibi and all the other naysayers have a better idea. Because without it, there’s going to be hell to pay, and we mean that literally.