At a speech co-sponsored last week by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's Israel Advocacy Center and other groups, John Bolton, former Ambassador of the United States to the United Nations, made a few unorthodox suggestions to a local audience.
Though Israel and the United States -- as well as most American Jews -- support a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, Bolton stated that he thought that possibility was no longer viable. He believes that it's time to acknowledge reality, and ask Egypt and Jordan to take responsibility for Gaza and the West Bank. Though there's no chance that either of these nations would step up to the challenge, expecting anything positive from talks with either Fatah or Hamas is a hard position to defend.
On the question of Iran and the possibility of it seeking to attain nuclear weapons, Bolton was even more pointed. Agreeing with Israel and those European nations who flatly dismiss the credibility of the National Intelligence Estimate, which ostensibly debunked the belief that Iran is pursuing nukes, Bolton claimed that the threat remains grave. The NIE not only ruled out any chance that the United States would take military action against Iran, but also undermined the case for serious sanctions that might solve the situation without the use of force. This leaves Israel standing alone.
If the Jewish state chooses to act on its own, Bolton did have one piece of counsel. As was the case in 1981, when Israel unilaterally ended the chance that Saddam Hussein's Iraq might acquire nukes by bombing Osirak, he suggested that it was better for Israel to ask for forgiveness after the fact than to ask the United States -- or anyone else -- for permission in advance of a strike.
Let's hope that Israel never has to face such a dilemma, but that if it does, it will heed his advice.