Maya Shwayder — Jerusalem Post Nov 1, 2013
Addressing the Anti-Defamation League’s 100th annual meeting on Thursday night, former US secretary of defense and CIA director Leon Panetta told the ballroom of around 600 people that while the US has “implemented unprecedented sanctions and pressure on Iran, we may very well have to use military force to back up our policy.”
US president Barack Obama has often said that “all options are on the table” when it comes to negotiating over Iran’s nuclear program. Panetta, who was receiving the ADL’s William and Naomi Gorowitz Institute Service Award, said the US needs to “maintain a healthy skepticism” when negotiating to suss out Iran’s true level of commitment to the process.
“It is the Supreme Leader who is key, and he is not likely to give up enrichment,” Panetta warned. “We have to remain strong. We have to remain consistent.”
Panetta reemphasized the American line that the US has “no friend, no better ally in the world than Israel,” but he expressed concern over the “growing sense of isolationism in this country [the US]” over the last ten years of fighting two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the shifting power dynamics among world leaders. “The fact remains that we live in a very dangerous world,” he said. “We continue to have threats from North Korea as they test nuclear weapons. We have instability and fragility in the Middle East. All of this happens at a time when we are imperiled by gridlock in Washington.”
Panetta devoted part of his speech to tearing down DC’s leaders over the recent government shutdown and the budget sequester. “If you ask me what biggest threat to national security is today,” he continued, “it is fact that our political leaders cannot come together to deal with this nation’s problems. This is time when must maintain military strength and our role in the world as a world leader. We cannot retreat from the responsibilities that US has in the world today.”
Panetta was introduced by current secretary of defense Chuck Hagel, who expressed his admiration for his predecessor, and similarly indicated his support for maintaining a firm hand with Iran, while at the same exploring further diplomatic options.
“We are testing Iranian intentions for diplomatic solutions,” he said. “When we engage Iran along with our partners, we are clear-eyed about the reality in the Middle East. Iran is a state sponsor of terror,…but foreign policy is not a zero-sum game.”
Hagel advocated for exploring more ways to resolve disputes, and tried to soothe any audience members concerned that diplomacy would lead nowhere. “Engagement is not appeasement, nor is it containment,” he said. “We know what those are, we know where they lead, and we will not pursue them. And President Obama has repeatedly made clear that words are not enough. Action must match words.”
Hagel also announced that the US would be selling Israel six new V-22 tiltrotor helicopters, and he recognized the “challenges” on Israel’s borders given the crises in Egypt and Syria. “There are no margins for Israel,” Hagel said.
The other big headliner of the first day of the meeting was UN ambassador Samantha Power, who received a gift from ADL national director Abe Foxman: a book with the word “Jew” written in it six million times, as a tribute to her work in the field of genocide, Foxman said.
Power spoke about the importance of ADL and lauded Foxman for his leadership. “When most leaders speak, people listen. When Abe Foxman speaks – what other choice do we have?” she joked.
She went on to address the collaboration between the US and Israeli missions at the UN, and vowed to continue working to expand Israel’s role. “I have made it a priority … to oppose every example of anti-Israeli bias in the UN system,” Power said. “On my watch, we will push ceaselessly for the further inclusion of Israel in regional groups. We will demand objectivity in resolutions affecting Middle East peace. …There is no basis to exclude Israel from full participation in the United Nations system.