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SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT

Contrary to J Street and Media Claims, Former IDF Chief Halutz Is Hawkish on Iran

Lt. Gen. Halutz is actually making the argument, in an admittedly very circumspect manner, that it is the international community - that is, everyone besides Israel - which is to blame for the current cataclysm. Halutz even says that Israel may have to “go it alone.”
Former IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz at a rally in Tel Aviv last January.

Former IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz at a rally in Tel Aviv last January.
Photo Credit: Gideon Markowicz/Flash90

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Former Israel Defense Force Chief of Staff Dan Halutz is being shepherded around the United States to talk about the international crisis with Iran.  The anti-Netanyahu group J Street is promoting Halutz as critical of Israeli policy and supportive of their position of opposing military action.

But at the first two talks given by Halutz, one of which was attended by a Jewish Press reporter and the other of which can be can be viewed online, it appears that Halutz’s positions are far more complex and nuanced than J Street and their fellow promoters understand.

What is Halutz saying?

On negotiations: “negotiations have failed”;  on diplomacy: “enough Viennese coffee without results”; on sanctions: without the participation of China, Russia and India – all of which have been given exemptions by the US government – the sanctions will take too long to work; and on the issue of “red lines,” the problem isn’t that they are too bellicose, it is that they give the enemy an advantage you don’t want it to have.

On Tuesday, September 11th, Halutz spoke at the Saban Center For Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. On Wednesday evening he spoke at a large suburban Philadelphia Conservative synagogue.  Thursday night the former IDF Chief of Staff spoke at a synagogue in West Chester County, New York, and he is scheduled to speak sometime soon to the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the coordinating body for local Jewish community relations organizations.

Lt. Gen. Halutz is actually making the argument, in an admittedly very circumspect manner, that it is the international community – that is, everyone besides Israel – which is to blame for the current cataclysm precisely because the actions taken thus far are inadequate and it is that failure which may result in Israel, alone, having to take military action against Iran.  And that is a situation no one wants.

Sanctions

According to Halutz, the international response to Iran’s nuclear activity has been inadequate on just about all fronts.  With respect to sanctions, there aren’t enough countries participating and there aren’t enough products on the banned list.  In particular, without China, Russia and India’s full participation in sanctions – all of which received exemptions from the United States — the impact on the Iranian economy has been too small to encourage the regime to cease its path to nuclear weapons.

Halutz told the Brookings audience that despite some reports to the contrary, the sanctions are not really having an impact on the Iranian economy.  “It was just reported,” he said, “that the Iranian currency dropped by 8 percent compared to the dollar.”  The Iranians are “not yet convinced that there is a real cost imposed upon them because their leadership has chosen to move forward on a project which is unacceptable to the world.” Unless they are forced to do that, to choose between “bread or nuclear weapons,” the sanctions will not work.

An additional reason sanctions are not working is because not enough products are involved.  Halutz explained that there need to be many more products, “thousands of them” placed on the sanctions list.  He offered two examples. The Iranian airlines and the Iranian shipping lines are still operating in the world and, if they weren’t, the Iranians would be seriously impacted.   Right now they aren’t.

In other words, sanctions only work if they cause sharp pain.  Right now there’s barely a mild caress.

Diplomacy

Halutz believes that diplomatic efforts must continue, but he is contemptuous of the public versions taking place.  “Enough Viennese coffees,” he said, referring to the rounds of talks that have already taken place, after each one of which the Iranians have refused to cease their nuclear activities.

However, he was quite supportive of one diplomatic effort that he believes, if only more countries would join in, could be fruitful.  The bold shuttering of the Iranian Embassy in Canada by President Stephen Harper is exactly the kind of diplomatic effort that needs to be undertaken, but “others must follow.”  Again, as with sanctions, unless many countries – diplomatically important countries – join in, weak diplomatic energy will bear no fruit.

Red Lines

Publicly, J Street repeatedly states that Halutz is against the drawing of “red lines,” that is, the line in the sand beyond which military action against Iran must be taken.  This is significant because President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu have engaged in a public spat over the US refusal to set red lines.  The Israeli government is claiming that without them, it cannot rely on the United States and Israel will have to take action on its own.  There are commentators who crow that Halutz’s opposition to red lines reveals a reluctance to use force against Iran, and that it is an explicit criticism of the Israeli prime minister.

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About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.


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16 Responses to “Contrary to J Street and Media Claims, Former IDF Chief Halutz Is Hawkish on Iran”

  1. Gil Gilman says:

    There is not much to argue with in this article, if anything. In fact, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz seems to have a firm grasp on the facts, and his analysis is impeccable. As to why J Street would tout one half of his comment at the expense of the full idea, they are like all other self serving. self proclaimed. scholars with an axe to grind. It is not about truth, or reality if you prefer, it is about their stake in the game. They will do anything to advance their agenda and maintain their fan base and funding. This is the same with ideologues the world over. They are aloof, and in their ivory towers, removed from the hurly burly and won't suffer as those in the maelstrom.

  2. Lori Lowenthal Marcus says:

    One question, Gil, why do you refer to J Street as scholars?

  3. Lori Lowenthal Marcus says:

    One question, Gil, why do you refer to J Street as scholars?

  4. Mikey Pasek says:

    It is worth considering the fact that J Street might actually understand nuance, and that J Street shares the US government's position that all options must be on the table. Having attended General Haloutz's talk at the Brookings, I can say that the General did indeed criticize Netanyahu's call for red lines, and argued that they hurt Israel's own cause…I urge you to not be as partisan as you claim J Street to be, but to talk about issues and not groups. By focusing on accusations of groups you do a disservice to out communal conversation and threaten the important discourse that must occur.

  5. Lori Lowenthal Marcus says:

    Thanks for commenting, Mikey, but may I suggest you read, or re-read the article. It focuses on what Gen. Halutz said, including his full statements on red lines, as opposed to what at least 2 J Street officials represented those statement to be. In my opinion, it is a "disservice to our communal conversation" and makes impossible "the important discourse that must occur" when the views of military leaders are caricatured to fit a particular political viewpoint. In terms of specifics – e.g. the sanctions exemptions and the reduction in American forces involved in joint military exercises with the IDF – Gen. Halutz was more critical of this US administration than he was of the Israeli one, but it was clear his focus is on preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, not electing a particular president or prime minister. As it should be.

  6. Lori Lowenthal Marcus says:

    Thanks for commenting, Mikey, but may I suggest you read, or re-read the article. It focuses on what Gen. Halutz said, including his full statements on red lines, as opposed to what at least 2 J Street officials represented those statement to be. In my opinion, it is a "disservice to our communal conversation" and makes impossible "the important discourse that must occur" when the views of military leaders are caricatured to fit a particular political viewpoint. In terms of specifics – e.g. the sanctions exemptions and the reduction in American forces involved in joint military exercises with the IDF – Gen. Halutz was more critical of this US administration than he was of the Israeli one, but it was clear his focus is on preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, not electing a particular president or prime minister. As it should be.

  7. Gil Gilman says:

    lol…I should have said self-proclaimed experts. I don't regard the J Street peace at any cost philosophy as scholarship, but the word really means nothing except nachas. I also desire peace, but realize that peace without my existence is no peace at all. Sometimes true peace comes after sacrifice, sometimes through diplomacy. Diplomacy and sanctions didn't work against the monsters of WWII, and there are numerous ideologies, cultures, and potentates against whom they won't work today.

  8. J Street not only threatens Israel and America with their slander they risk their souls.

    All Israel has a share in the world to come except slanderers.

  9. Mikey Pasek, you sound like Neville Chamberlain and you must know the consequences if you are wrong. Will you go and live in Israel and wait for the nuke and then say you were wrong from the sky or in the dirt? Wake up. Israel has been warned they are first and we, in the United States are next. They want to hang their Islamic Flag over the White House and with people like you, they will succeed. Easy to make comments and take chances when you are here in a safe place but how long will it be safe with this President? I hope you do not give him your vote. All Jews should not give this Pres a vote who snubs the head of the Jewish State of Israel. He will see the Pres of Egypt, of the Muslim Brotherhood, who has declared they will not keep the peace with Israel but ignored P.M. Netanyahu while both were in New York yesterday. I will assume you are the ones who were friends with Arafat and I rarely assume.

  10. Mikey Pasek, you sound like Neville Chamberlain and you must know the consequences if you are wrong. Will you go and live in Israel and wait for the nuke and then say you were wrong from the sky or in the dirt? Wake up. Israel has been warned they are first and we, in the United States are next. They want to hang their Islamic Flag over the White House and with people like you, they will succeed. Easy to make comments and take chances when you are here in a safe place but how long will it be safe with this President? I hope you do not give him your vote. All Jews should not give this Pres a vote who snubs the head of the Jewish State of Israel. He will see the Pres of Egypt, of the Muslim Brotherhood, who has declared they will not keep the peace with Israel but ignored P.M. Netanyahu while both were in New York yesterday. I will assume you are the ones who were friends with Arafat and I rarely assume.

  11. Peter Shalen says:

    Thanks for the informative article, Dorothy!

  12. Charlie Hall says:

    Israelis, and Israel supporters need to understand something: The President of the US can never and will never allow another country, no matter how friendly, to force it into war.

    Had Netanyahu been the head of government of any country than Israel, he would have been slapped down hard by all sides of the US political spectrum. In particular, the extreme right in the US, which doesn't even want the US in NATO, would be going nuts. I'm really surprised that Netanyahu, who grew up in the US, does not understand this. His machinations have alienated strong Israel supporters like Barbara Boxer. It is a measure of the strong support for Israel across the US political spectrum that there hasn't been such a reaction.

    The fact is that the US is in no position to support an extended military campaign in the region. If Israel attacks Iran, it will have to be on its own until such time as the US can get its remaining 60,000 troops out of Afghanistan. This needs to happen sooner rather than later in order to deal with the real threat, which is Iran.

  13. The troops can march through Iran and get aboard ship in the Persian Gulf. :-)

  14. Thank Barbara Ledeen as when I went to send her a message, I discovered the Jewish Press here in Washington. Keep an eye on it if I cannot, Peter.

  15. Charlie Hall says:

    Simon H Gedney, I just noticed that comment. The US has 60,000 troops in Afghanistan. The Iranian regular army is something like seven times that size, and that doesn't even count the Revolutionary Guard. Furthermore, most of Iran is difficult, mountainous terrain. What you suggest would be a suicide march.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armed_Forces_of_the_Islamic_Republic_of_Iran

  16. I am familiar with Iran's topography. I am also familiar with its low-level insurrections in Kurdistan, Arabistan and Baluchistan. Farsi-speakers may be a minority in Iran now. Also, an increasing number of both RG and army troops (which have not really been effective) are being diverted to Syria and, probably, Lebanon. Moreover, the current detente between Iran and Turkey will probably be short-lived, if history may be a a guide. So, Iran is putting itself in a position to be squeezed by its ethnic minorities, by the Turks, by its own internal dissensions, and by the US.

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