No Deal Is Better Than a Bad Deal

Prime Minister of Israel Binyamin Netanyahu meets United States Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome

Cartoon reprinted courtesy of Yaakov (Dry Bones) Kirschen www.DryBonesBlog.blogspot.com.

Obama Tells Tehran To Come Back With A Better Proposal

According to DEBKA Weekly:

Contrary to the upbeat hype trumpeted by the US, British and Iranian media, Washington has quietly told Tehran through their regular backdoor lines that the “proposals” put to last week’s Geneva conference were too meager for further nuclear diplomacy. “Go back and start from scratch,” was the message.

Kerry and Netanyahu Agree on Approach to Iran

Secretary of State John Kerry met today with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to discuss Iran and the Israeli-Arab peace talks, at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Rome, Italy.

Before their meeting, the two carried short remarks. About Iran, Kerry said:

We have said, President Obama has made it very clear he will pursue a diplomatic initiative, but with eyes wide open, aware that it will be vital for Iran to live up to the standards that other nations that have nuclear programs live up to as they prove that those programs are indeed peaceful. I have said a number of times, President Obama has said a number of times, and I reiterate today, no deal is better than a bad deal. But if this can be solved satisfactorily, diplomatically, it is clearly better for everyone.  And we are looking for an opportunity to be able to do that.

Netanyahu said:

Preventing that is a goal I share with you and President Obama. And you have said, I think wisely, that Iran must not have a nuclear weapons capability, which means that they shouldn’t have centrifuges for enrichment. They shouldn’t have a plutonium heavy water plant which is used only for nuclear weapons. They should get rid of the amassed fissile material. And they shouldn’t have underground nuclear facilities, underground for one reason — for military purposes.  

About the peace talks, Kerry said:

Thanks to the courage of the Prime Minister and the courage of President Abbas, both of whom took risks to reengage in talks, our negotiators have been meeting now — our negotiators — the facilitator, which is the United States, and the two parties are the negotiators — but the Palestinians and the Israelis have come together now some 13 times and are meeting even now as we are here. And our Special Envoy for these talks, Martin Indyk, is in Jerusalem and helping to facilitate those discussions.

Netanyahu said:

That peace is premised on mutual recognition of two states for two peoples — the Palestinian state for the Palestinian people mirrored by the Jewish state for the Jewish people. I think that’s fundamental for any peace, but equally it must be a peace that — as President Obama has said — a peace that Israel can defend by itself, for itself against any conceivable threat.

Full remarks after the jump.
United States Secretary of State John F. Kerry: Well, thank you very, very much. My great pleasure to welcome the Prime Minister of Israel Bibi Netanyahu here at Villa Taverna, which is the American Ambassador’s residence here in Rome. And I’m really grateful that our schedules were able to work out so that both of us could combine our travel and meet here in the course of today.  

And I want to begin by wishing the Prime Minister a very, very happy birthday.  

Prime Minister of Israel Binyamin Netanyahu: Thanks a lot.

Kerry: Your birthday was Monday and happy to wish you best returns.

Netanyahu: Yeah. Getting younger all the time, John. (Laughter.) Like you.

Kerry:
No, no. I think we’re earning some gray hairs together.  

This is a very important opportunity for us to be able to meet because there are a series of issues that are of huge importance to both of our countries, and our people are watching closely what is happening with respect to threats in the region and the challenges that we face. It’s particularly timely, because we are, as the Prime Minister and people in the world know, engaged in negotiations with Iran regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons program. This is something the Prime Minister and I have talked about for a long time. It is of major concern to all of us that Iran not be able to develop a nuclear weapon.

While we welcome, and we do welcome, the change of rhetoric, the change of tone, the diplomatic opening that the Iranians have offered through President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif, we have made clear and we are adamant that words are no substitute for actions. And what we will need, all of us — in order to be satisfied with respect to the United Nations sanctions, to the demands of the IAEA, as well as to our own security requirements — we will need to know that actions are being taken which make it crystal clear, undeniably clear, failsafe to the world, that whatever program is pursued is indeed a peaceful program.

We have said, President Obama has made it very clear he will pursue a diplomatic initiative, but with eyes wide open, aware that it will be vital for Iran to live up to the standards that other nations that have nuclear programs live up to as they prove that those programs are indeed peaceful. I have said a number of times, President Obama has said a number of times, and I reiterate today, no deal is better than a bad deal. But if this can be solved satisfactorily, diplomatically, it is clearly better for everyone. And we are looking for an opportunity to be able to do that.

We obviously have other issues to discuss. Thanks to the courage of the Prime Minister and the courage of President Abbas, both of whom took risks to reengage in talks, our negotiators have been meeting now — our negotiators — the facilitator, which is the United States, and the two parties are the negotiators — but the Palestinians and the Israelis have come together now some 13 times and are meeting even now as we are here. And our Special Envoy for these talks, Martin Indyk, is in Jerusalem and helping to facilitate those discussions. So obviously, we will have some time also to discuss that, Syria, Egypt, other issues of the region.

But I’m very grateful to the Prime Minister, whose schedule is obviously enormously busy, for laying aside a good amount of time today for us to be able to dig into these issues. And I look forward to having a very candid and very constructive conversation.  

Thanks very much, Mr. Prime Minister. Thank you.

Netanyahu:
Thank you, John. Thank you.  

Well, Secretary Kerry, John, it’s good to see you again. Last time in Jerusalem — or rather, in Washington, before that in Jerusalem, and now in Rome. Any time is a good time to talk about security and peace. The foremost security problem that we face, as you said, is Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons. Preventing that is a goal I share with you and President Obama. And you have said, I think wisely, that Iran must not have a nuclear weapons capability, which means that they shouldn’t have centrifuges for enrichment. They shouldn’t have a plutonium heavy water plant which is used only for nuclear weapons. They should get rid of the amassed fissile material. And they shouldn’t have underground nuclear facilities, underground for one reason — for military purposes.  

I think you’re right. I think no deal is better than a bad deal. I think a partial deal that leaves Iran with these capabilities is a bad deal. You wisely insisted there wouldn’t be a partial deal with Syria. You’re right. If Assad had said, well, I’d like to keep, I don’t know, 20 percent, 50 percent, or 80 percent of my chemical weapons capability, you would have refused, and correctly so. And I think in the case of Iran, it’s essential that it be made to live up to Security Council resolutions that demand an end to enrichment and enrichment capability and an end to plutonium heavy water capability towards fissile material for nuclear weapons.

I think we’re very close to getting that. And I agree with you that the goal is get it peacefully — peacefully. The best way to get it peacefully is to maintain the pressure on Iran. That’s what got them into these renewed negotiations in the first place. The leadership the United States and the President have shown on the issue of sanctions, I think, has been centrally important. I think it would be a tragic mistake to stop right before that goal is realized, and I look forward to discussing this issue, obviously, with you.

The second thing we’re discussing all the time — and I’m not revealing state secrets if I tell you that we — the Secretary and I talk more or less every other day about these twin goals — is to advance the peace with the Palestinians. That peace is premised on mutual recognition of two states for two peoples — the Palestinian state for the Palestinian people mirrored by the Jewish state for the Jewish people. I think that’s fundamental for any peace, but equally it must be a peace that — as President Obama has said — a peace that Israel can defend by itself, for itself against any conceivable threat. I think these are the two twin pillars of peace, and I look forward to discussing how we can advance both goals in our discussions today, and undoubtedly our discussions tomorrow as well.

Kerry: Good. Thank you, my friend.

Netanyahu: Thank you, John.

Kerry: Thank you very much.

Netanyahu: Thanks for the birthday offering.

Kerry:
No, no, no. Well, we have more to offer. (Laughter.)

Netanyahu: Thank you. Thank you very much.

Kerry: Thank you all very much. We’ll see you later.

Once Upon A Time in Iran: Politics of Iranian Nukes

Any time Republican candidates gather to discuss foreign policy, it can result in some curious observations about how the world works. The latest example is a flat-out assertion from Mitt Romney that “If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon.” Simple, right?

However, when it comes to specifics about how a Republican president’s course would differ from the current administration’s, things start to get a lot less clear…

Benjy Sarlin looks in to it.

Fracking and Fukushima: Obcene Efforts to Subjugate the Earth

— Rabbi Arthur Waskow

What is just happening in Japan and what is on the verge of happening in Pennsylvania have a deep connection.

In the one, it might seem that disaster flowed from a small-scale decision:  that it was “impossible” for a tsunami to get higher than x feet. That decision led to placement of emergency generators for the nuclear power plants in ways that made them vulnerable to being knocked out when a monster tsunami did in fact sweep across northern Japan.

Result: already as I write (5:30 a.m., Eastern US time, Tuesday March 15) radiation at medium levels is venting onto nearby regions of Japan, carrying the seeds of cancer and death that have forced the Prime Minister to tell residents to stay indoors. In the next week, God forbid, there may be a full melt-down of one or more of the damaged plants, rendering large areas of Japan (and possibly Korea, depending on wind currents) as uninhabitable as the Chernobyl melt-down rendered parts of Ukraine, while increasing the rate of cancer deaths in a larger swathe of Europe.

A small mistake, yes? —  misgauging the power of a possible earthquake and tsunami. As minor as the small mistake that turned the BP oil well in the Gulf of Mexico into an ecological and economic disaster.

But neither one was exactly a “mistake.” The whole nuclear energy system, and the whole system of deep-sea oil drilling (now again permitted in the Gulf), and the whole system of  “fracking” for natural gas that endangers the drinking water of millions of Americans  — all are the result of a far more profound transgression.

More after the jump.
That transgression is the pursuit of power to control the earth and other human beings that has run amok. Has become not mere “control,” but subjugation. And has brought Plagues upon the Earth and all Humanity, as tyrannical Pharaoh brought plagues upon ancient Egypt.

All life on Earth is the result of a Dance between control and community. Eco-systems are ways in which any given species restrains itself from overwhelming its surroundings, encouraging other species to co-exist with it in a biological community- not using as much power to control as it might, so that it can continue to live in the longer run.

(For example: an amoeba might gaily multiply itself into proliferous plurality, gobbling up all the sugary water in the vicinity – until there is no more sugar and too many amoebae, who then all abruptly die.  But if the amoebae learn to limit themselves and leave space for other life-forms, what emerges is a eco-system. Fewer amoebae at any one moment, but they can live on into the future.)

In human culture, knowing when to Do and when to Pause, when to restrain one’s self, when to encourage a community instead of gobbling up all wealth and power for one’s self, is   crucial. All the great traditions tried to teach this wisdom. Indeed, it was made them great, able to live across millennia.

When some human institution of Power-Over over-reached, ran amok – like Pharaoh, the Babylonian Empire, Rome – the corrective came in a great new surge of community – new kinds of community. But Modernity has become an adventure in Over-reaching, Over-powering, far beyond any previous imperial power.

And the result has been General Electric’s convincing Japanese governments that its expertise could overpower earthquakes and tsunamis, that nuclear energy was more “profitable” than wind or solar energy could ever be, that the “cost” of a billion dollars each for these brittle power plants was better spending than conserving energy in the first place, learning to live within limits, encouraging decentralized arrays of sun and wind power that lived in the nooks and crannies of the Earth instead of trying to dominate it.

And the spending was better – for General Electric. And for BP. And for Massey Coal. But not better for the Earth or human earthlings.

And now let’s look at the other obscene word  —  “fracking” — in the same light. It’s slang for “hydrofracturing” —  that is pouring tons of chemicalized and pressurized water into shale rock that has within it natural gas that can only be accessed by fracturing the rock.

But this means that the water table is poisoned. Watching the film Gasland, one sees drinking water flaming up – literally burning – when a match is touched to it.

Obviously, thank God and the wisdom of our Congress, such processes that poison the drinking water of millions of people are forbidden by the Clean Water Act.

But — Vice-President Chaney and the Big Oil conglomerates he worked for persuaded Congress to exempt oil and gas companies from the provisions of the Clean Water Act.

How did they pull this off? With money, of course. Money in campaign contributions, money in lavish lobbying (of judges, not only Congress).  This money was not wasted. It was an investment, mere millions paying off in multibillions of profit.

And what did the exemption mean? That the fracking companies don’t even report what the chemicals are they are putting in the water.  Independent researchers, working on shoe-strings, have isolated some of them: cancer-producers among them. And that the fracking companies expect enough profits  to make it worth their while to buy state governors and legislatures.

So in Pennsylvania, not only is there no regulation of fracking but not even taxes on the fracking profits.
The companies plan tens of thousands of fracking wells in the Marcellus Shale region. In the shale region itself, some wells that have watered farm families for generations are already poisoned. It may take a generation for Philadelphians to start dying of the cancer-causing chemicals that seep into their drinking water.

Just as it took the Fukushima nukes a generation to start poisoning the Japanese people.

“Frack you!” say the oil companies. “Fukushima you!” says General Electric.

What we need is the birthing of a new kind of community, just as ancient wandering Hebrews responded to Pharaoh with Sinai, as Biblical Israel responded to Rome with both Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity, as the Arabian tribes responded to the tyrants of Mecca with Islam.

A planetary community.

Rabbi Phyllis Berman and I concluded that that was the crucial wisdom we need to learn from the story of Exodus, when we wrote Freedom Journeys: The Tale of Exodus and Wilderness Across Millennia.   For more information on the book, and on the Interfaith Freedom Seder for the Earth, please see the Shalom Center website.

But it’s not just us, or that book. More, of course, to come.

Blessings of shalom, salaam, of a deeper, fuller freedom for the Earth and all Humanity.