Saturday, November 10, 2007

Israel Prefers the Democrats on Iran

This past Thursday GW Hillel had the privilege of a fireside chat with Ron Dermer, the Israeli Economic attache from the embassy. A native of Miami Beach, Florida who made aliyah, he's not the kind of Israeli politician I'd support were I to make aliyah; I'd probably vote either Meretz or Labour as an Israeli. I stand with former Prime Minister and Labour party leader Ehud Barak that "To Be Pro-Israel is to Be Pro-Peace"

Dermer, on the other hand been an aide to Likud politicians such as former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Natan Sharansky. In fact, he co-wrote with Sharansky " The Case For Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror," highly influential to neo-conservatives in the United States.

And in fact, he spent most of the talk bashing socialism as stupid for Israel, and worshipping at the altar of private enterprise. I may be being harsh on Mr. Dermer, as even with the Likud reforms, Israel still spends a far larger percentage of his GDP on domestic issues as the U.S. (and twice the U.S. on defense). He did in fact criticize the Republican candidates in the U.S. for failing to note that government intervention is necessary for some things, such as the prevention of monopolies.

However, after this, I was naturally apprehensive about what he'd say about Iran.

However, I was pleasantly surprised.

He of course talked about how Ahmadinejad is a crazy nut who'd like to take over the world.

He didn't mention bombing at all.

What he did mention was sanctions and divestment.

Democratic Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and Holocaust survivor Tom Lantos has led on putting further sanctions on Iran. His bill passed the House with only 16 nay votes and will likely pass the Senate nearly unanimously.

Divestment is another story. Mr. Dermer is a huge supporter of this. He believes that the United States should be putting the squeeze on businesses that are directly or indirectly supporting the Iranian regime.

Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama, along with Democratic Representative Barney Frank, have introduced a bill to do just that.

Americans need to come together to confront the challenge posed by Iran. Yet the Bush administration and an anonymous senator are blocking a bill with bipartisan support that would ratchet up the pressure on the Iranian regime. It's time for this obstructionism to stop.


In response, the Bush administration's policy has been tough talk with little action and even fewer results. While conventional Washington thinking says we can only talk to people who agree with us, I believe that strong countries and strong Presidents shouldn't be afraid to talk directly to our adversaries to tell them where America stands. The Bush-Cheney diplomacy of not talking to Iran has not worked. As President, I will use all elements of American power to pressure the Iranian regime, including the power of tough, smart and principled diplomacy.

For diplomacy to work, we need to dial up our political and economic pressure - not just our tough talk. Iran's troubling behavior depends in large part on access to billions of dollars in oil and gas revenue. That is why I introduced the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act last May, to build on a movement across the country to divest from companies that do significant business with Iran. This would send a clear message about where America stands, increasing Iran's isolation and hitting the Iranian regime where it hurts.

The bill works in three ways. First, it would educate investors and pressure foreign companies to reconsider doing business with Iran by requiring the U.S. government to publish - every six months - a list of companies that invest more than $20 million in Iran's energy sector. Second, it would give explicit congressional authorization to state and local governments to divest the assets of their pension funds and other funds under their control from any company on the list. Third, it would give private fund managers who divest protection from lawsuits, while urging the government's own 401(k) fund to create "terror-free" and "genocide-free" investment options for government employees.


Talking tough and keeping our troops in the middle of Iraq's civil war has only served to strengthen Iran's position. It's time to turn the page on a failed foreign policy. It's time for strong diplomacy backed by common-sense measures that pressure the Iranian regime.

It passed the House with only 6 NAY votes, 4 of them by Republicans.

Unfortunately, Republican Senator Richard Shelby has placed a hold on the bill as a favor to the Bush administration, which stands resolutely against it as "against our national interest."


Aryeh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aryeh said...

Hi. Not sure your title is accurate as in fact the bill you discuss was/is supported by both Dem and Repubs, and as Dermer's thoughts (a) are in favor of divestment, not of a party and (b) reflect only one aspect - as you point out - of the Israeli political spectrum. But glad you were able to enjoy and agree with at least part of what Ron said.

The issue of promoting freedom in the Middle East, however, which is what Sharansky's book is about (which Dermer co-wrote) is of much greater stratetic importance, in my humble opinion. Though Ron's focus today is on economic issues, it would have been good to have discussed this in more depth at your fireside chat.... Not only because the topic is not on the agenda of many in the Democratic party and/or on campus, especially among liberals, but when it is discussed, it is often misunderstood.

Warm regards - Aryeh Green (also a former advisor to Sharansky)

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