WASHINGTON (JTA) — The director of the U.S. Jewish foreign policy umbrella called Mohammed ElBaradei, the opposition leader emerging from the Egyptian ferment, a “stooge of Iran.”
Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice-president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, accused ElBaradei of covering up Iran’s true nuclear weaponization capacities while he directed the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog.
“He is a stooge of Iran, and I don’t use the term lightly,” Hoenlein said in an online recorded interview with Yeshiva World News on the Egyptian crisis. “He fronted for them, he distorted the reports.”
Whether he is correct or not, and why, if he is, Hoenlein shared this assessment only with a fiercely right-wing, religious sectarian press outlet are all important questions. The latter question speaks to the issue faced by all leaders speaking out in the midst of a crisis i.e. whether to use unfolding events to affirm already held opinions and consolidate existing constituencies or to use such events as opportunities to consider new possibilities and create new alliances.
It seems that Mr. Hoenline has chosen the former over the latter, but that doesn’t mean his assessment is necessarily wrong. Mohamamed ElBaradei’s behavior when he directed the IAEA has been debated for years. Did he provide cover for Iran’s nuclear weapons aspirations or did he faithfully report and even retard those aspirations?
Whatever the answer to those questions may be, ElBaradei is certainly emerging as a real contender to lead Egypt through the transition away from Hosni Mubarak’s regime – a transition which seems increasingly inevitable. Given that, the more important questions should be about the ways in which he, or whatever other leadership emerges, can be most constructively engaged.
There is no question that if/when Mubarak falls, whatever government comes next will be less friendly to Israel. That does not mean however, that peace will not be possible. This is a moment which calls for clear-eyed realism to be sure, but it also calls for embracing reality rather than simply bemoaning it.