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January 27, 2015 / 7 Shevat, 5775
 
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Politics, Israel, the Economy: A Chat With Rep. Bob Turner


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With Syria on the verge of collapse and Egypt swept away by Islamists, Israel now finds itself in a new neighborhood. Did you speak with Israeli officials about this new Middle East reality?

I spoke to ministers, and their opinions indicate that the situation is worsening. And if [the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty] does collapse, there will be a greater effort on Israel’s part to police the Sinai, which has already had a number of lawless incidents. In Syria, the Assad regime is spending most of its energy trying to suppress its own people. The struggle in Syria may be more ethnic and tribal than ideological or political, but the collapse of this regime will be a defeat for Iran. Then we’ll have to see what replaces it.

You advocate keeping a military option open regarding Iran. With the current tension in the Strait of Hormuz, do you think Obama’s recent signing of tougher sanctions against Iran was too little too late?

They could actually have been a little tougher on the Iranian bank, but I think we’ve done everything publicly in the right way. What’s happening non-publicly we don’t know. I can only hope that we are doing whatever we can, financially and through intelligence. I hope we are concentrating a great deal of our efforts in the cyber war, getting information to the Iranian people, offering them alternatives, attacking the regime theologically and philosophically.

Do you believe this administration would have the nerve or willingness to pursue a military option against Iran?

I don’t know if this administration has the chops to do what may have to be done.

What impression do you have of the mindset of the Israeli public as the threats to Israel’s security seem to be growing worse by the day?

There’s no diminishing the reality of the threats. But despite that, I’m looking at a vibrant, confident and optimistic society. I saw it on all levels. They fully comprehend the size of the problems and the challenges ahead, and they’re going through with their lives and doing what has to be done to solve these problems. And they will. And I will work toward gaining and improving American support toward that end.

Are you satisfied with your performance in Congress thus far?

I can’t be that thrilled; we have an enormous task ahead of us. The looming deficit threatens our entire economy, all our social programs, etc. And we’re not addressing it because of the split in Congress. We passed two dozen bills to help restore this country to prosperity and they’re sitting in the Senate. The defeated balanced budget amendment was just awful. So there has been some frustration, but I still have my eye on what has to be done, and I think there’s a way to do it.

My sense is that nothing significant will happen until Republicans take over the Senate. [We] would at least control the agenda and we could get some of these things done. If we don’t, God help us.

About the Author: Sara Lehmann, a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, was formerly an editor at a major New York publishing house.


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