Last night in New York, Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire supporter of Israel, said that the U.S. should fire a nuclear weapon at Iran rather than negotiate. He said that if Obama fires a weapon into the desert, killing no one, and then threatens to send the next one to Tehran so that Iran is “wiped out,” Iran will cease its nuclear program.
What are we going to negotiate about? I would say ‘Listen, you see that desert out there, I want to show you something.’ …You pick up your cell phone and you call somewhere in Nebraska and you say, ‘OK let it go.’ And so there’s an atomic weapon, goes over ballistic missiles, the middle of the desert, that doesn’t hurt a soul. Maybe a couple of rattlesnakes, and scorpions, or whatever. Then you say, ‘See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran. So, we mean business. You want to be wiped out? Go ahead and take a tough position and continue with your nuclear development. You want to be peaceful? Just reverse it all, and we will guarantee you that you can have a nuclear power plant for electricity purposes, energy purposes.’
The recommendations were met with applause by a Yeshiva University audience.
Adelson, an 80-year-old casino mogul and major supporter of Mitt Romney and other Republican political candidates, made the comments in a dialogue with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach during a conversation called “Will Jews Exist? Iran, Assimilation and the Threat to Israel and Jewish Survival.”
The video I took at Yeshiva University, above, records the exchange. Adelson is in the foreground with his back to the camera. Boteach, a rightwing political figure close to US ambassador Samantha Power and NJ Senator-elect Cory Booker, is on his right. Neither Boteach nor the others on the panel– Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens and Yeshiva University president Richard Joel — objected to Adelson’s idea.
Adelson owns homes in the U.S. and Israel, where he is also a newspaper publisher. The dialogue began when Boteach, who calls himself “America’s rabbi,” says that Adelson believes that Franklin Roosevelt could have prevented the Holocaust. Adelson says:
“He could have prevented the Holocaust… Yes– if not prevented the Holocaust, he could have at least significantly reduced the severity of it.”
Adelson said that Roosevelt could have convinced the British that it was “more important to them and to their future” not to sign the White Paper on Palestine in 1939 that limited Jewish immigration to Palestine. FDR had “unlimited leverage” because he could promise the British that the U.S. would enter World War II once the country ceased to be isolationist.
“He really had the leverage, he really had the upper hand,” Adelson said– something he realizes from being in business 68 years.
“Given your strong feelings about what the U.S. did not do to prevent the Holocaust,” Boteach asks, what are your feelings about “Obama speaking to Iran right now” and having diplomatic relations with Iran, given its threats against Israel? Not as a political person, the rabbi says, but as a prominent American.
The worst negotiating tactic I could ever imagine, my entire life.
[Boteach: Why is that?]
Because you can’t get anything. He’s not saying to them, Roll back your entire program and show that you’re willing to be peaceful. So, roll it all back… and we’ll roll back the sanctions…. What is that, a game of chicken, who’s going to blink first?
“It’s very simple, it’s the same thing with the Palestinians,” Adelson continues. “Sixty-five years, they haven’t taken one millimeter step toward the Israelis, to accommodate the needs of the Israelis but more importantly, to show that they truly want peace.”
Adelson moves from Palestine to Iran:
If they truly want peace, it’s very simple to say to all their henchmen, lay off the terrorism for five years. And they’ll come to the Jews and say, for five or ten years there will be no terrorism, there will be no violence or no incitement against– We’ll throw out the books that teach the three-year-old children that Jews are descended from swine and apes, and that we’re not going to teach anymore in the curriculum to kill the Jews, that the Jews are very bad people.
So if you really want peace, it’s very simple to send a message to your opposition. Just be peaceful. Open up all the things.
Or– ‘We’ll give you this if you give us something.’ I think it’s the worst negotiating ploy, tactic anybody can imagine.
[Boteach: So you would support negotiations with Iran so long as they first cease all enrichment]
No. What do you mean support negotiations? What are we going to negotiate about? What I would say is, ‘Listen, you see that desert out there, I want to show you something.’ You pick up your cell phone, even at traveling rates. You pick up your cell phone, and– what are they called– [Boteach: roaming charges] Roaming charges. You pick up your cell phone and you call somewhere in Nebraska and you say, ‘OK let it go.’ So there’s an atomic weapon, goes over ballistic missiles, the middle of the desert, that doesn’t hurt a soul. Maybe a couple of rattlesnakes, and scorpions, or whatever.
And then you say, ‘See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran. So, we mean business. You want to be wiped out? Go ahead and take a tough position and continue with your nuclear development. [Applause] You want to be peaceful? Just reverse it all, and we will guarantee you that you can have a nuclear power plant for electricity purposes, energy purposes.’
A tremendous demonstration of American strength? Boteach asks.
The only thing they understand.
So you see the current negotiations as a demonstration of weakness?