President Obama’s State of the Union address offered a window into his current thinking on the Middle East. On Israel, he reiterated his commitment to “peace and security for the State of Israel” and affirmed the idea of Israel as a “Jewish state.” This latter point has proved surprisingly sticky from the Palestinian side – probably because accepting a Jewish state would mean abandoning the dream of Palestinian refugees flooding Israel via a “right of return.” By accepting Israel’s position, the president has laudably affirmed Israel’s right not only to defend itself, but to define itself, as well.
On Iran, however, the speech gave reasons for concern. By suggesting that our goal should be to ensure Iran “is not” building a nuclear weapon, the president seems to be implying that Iran should and would be allowed under a final agreement to maintain its ability to make nuclear weapons whenever it chooses. This is would constitute an intolerable situation – and one that is dramatically out of touch with the desires of the American people, the great majority of whom are deeply unhappy with the president’s approach to handling Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
A new nationwide survey, conducted by the Mellman Group for The Israel Project, shows widespread disapproval of the current approach by a margin of 66-30 percent. Americans across all demographic and political segments express deep distrust of Iran (83-15 percent), and say that a final agreement must have Iran dismantle its enrichment capability (83-12 percent). These views are consistent across party, gender and socioeconomic segments.
In a country too often divided, we are united in our desire to strip Iran of the ability to make nuclear weapons – so much so that we are willing (69-21 percent) to use targeted military strikes to ensure it, should that be needed, a view that is shared by 61 percent of Democrats.
As our attention shifts to the final agreement, we need to be clear both with ourselves and with the Iranians that the world will not live with an Iran forever on the brink of a nuclear weapon, and capable of enriching uranium. And as in everything, our words should be backed with determined actions and unflinching resolve.
Joshua S. Block is CEO and president of The Israel Project.