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Palais Coburg at Theodore Herzl square
photo by Rhonda Spivak

A Couple in Vienna kissing nearby the Palais Coburg which first caught my attention
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Palais Coburg
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Theodore Herzl Square-rather plain loking
photo by Rhonda Spivak

One of the caves in the Hotel. Some are built within and around the original foundations of the 16th century fortress walls of the city of Vienna that once kept the Turks at bay.Others were more modern designs.
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Uzi Dayan on Mount Sarbata with Jordan valley and Jordanian mountain range in background. He and many other Israeli security officials have come out against the deal
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Lobby in Palias Coburg showing the former city walls of f Vienna
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Bar area in Palais Coburg
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Meeting room, Palais Coburg
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Bar area Palais Coburg
photo by Rhonda Spivak


by Rhonda Spivak, August 6, 2015

[Editor's note: Since writing this article news has broken on Aug 6 that despite President Barack Obama’s efforts to assure American Jews about the Iran deal, one of the largest and most influential Jewish organizations in the United States , the American Jewish Committee. Morover, Democratic Sen Charles Schumer has come out against the deal. Schumer's proposed alternative t the deal is "Better to keep US sanctions in place, strenghten them, enforce secondary sanctions on other nations, and pursue the hard-trodden path of diplomacy once more, difficult as it may be."]

In Vienna last summer while wandering around, I stopped to snap a photo of a young couple kissing and looked up to find that I had come across a square named "Theodor Herzl Platz (Square)", after the founding father of Zionism.

While the square itself was  not  particularly attractive (and I began to wonder why this place in particular was chosen to be named after Herzl), I couldn't help but notice the regal looking Palais Coburg, now a luxury hotel, that sits on one end of the square. I went inside to see if I might learn why this location was Herzl square, and discovered that the Palais Coburg was a resplendent luxury hotel, inside an impeccably restored 19th century palace. The lobby was very memorable since it is built around portions of the historic city walls of Vienna. Realizing this was a great hotel, I snapped a few photos of it, and decided it would be a fine location to go to to the bathroom before I returned to my meanderings around the city. Although I didn't realize it at the time, the hotel is famous for having one of the largest wine collections and archives in Europe, and tours of its underground  wine caves can be arranged.

After leaving the hotel, I later researched on the internet to learn that Vienna’s Gartenbaupromenade was renamed Theodor Herzl Platz on July 30, 2004, the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Jewish writer and founder of Zionism. The square appears to have been chosen due to its being in the vicinity of the daily newspaper, Die Presse, for whose predecessor, the Neue Freie Presse (New Free Press), Herzl had long written articles.

It's only now after reading the news recently that I have realized that this white stucco neoclassical hotel, which embodies Austria’s imperial past which I happened upon accidentally, is where the West signed the nuclear agreement with Iran, which Israeli leaders on both the right and the left believe is a "bad" deal, a historic mistake. (For example, the leader of the left of centre Zionist Union Isaac Herzog has come out saying the deal is bad and will lead to regional chaos in the Middle East.

The irony of this all can hardly be missed. Here, at Herzl Square, Israel has quite possibly seen its great ally lead the West in capitulating to Tehran, who emerges emboldened as a nuclear threshold state, more able than ever to threaten  to end Zionism. One can only wonder what Herzl would think of this deal.

Prof. Efraim Inbar of the Begin Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies says in his paper "Six Strikes against the Nuclear Deal with Iran" this bad deal "underscores US weakness, grants Iran nuclear legitimacy, spurs nuclear proliferation in the region, bolsters Iran's ability to project force and support terrorism, and  changes the balance of power in the region in favor of Iran."

As Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (who genuinely tried to reach a peace deal with the Arafat and is certainly not a right wing fanatic) said on CBS news about the impact of Iran's nuclear deal. "The deal is bad," Barak said. "It allows Iran to turn into a threshold nuclear power. It allows Iran to choose the time to break through and become a real nuclear power."

Inbar suggests that Israelis as well as most Middle Easterners, "do not buy the promise of a moderate Iran. They know better." He concludes, that 'an Israeli military strike on Iran has become more likely, and in the near future – before the US puts the brakes on military supplies to the Israeli army." I have no idea if Inbar is correct in this assessment, although even former Mossad head Meir Dagan who  put the brakes on Netanyahu's apparent attempt in 2010 to launch a military strike on Iran said on the day he left his post,  that "Israel should wage war only when a knife is at its neck, and begins to cut into the flesh." That suggests that Dagan, like others, would have ordered a military strike as an absolute last resort, rather than accept the implications of an Iranian bomb. I have been waiting to see if Dagan has publicly said anything about the deal since it's been signed, but as of yet, he has been silent.

Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan, a former IDF deputy chief of staff told the Jerusalem Post that "the deal is intolerable for Israel" and that Iran "received international approval to be a nuclear threshold state."

Should the agreement be ratified and implemented, Israel will have to take on the responsibility of warning about Iranian nuclear violations, according to Dayan. Simultaneously, Israel should seek to tighten intelligence cooperation with the U.S. and establish ground rules about what should be done in case of an Iranian violation.

The Vienna accord pushes Israel into a space in which the country must defend itself without coordination with the free world, Dayan said. Yet striking now is "not the right thing to do. We can only do it when there is no choice. We can seriously harm the Iranian nuclear program, but we can't strike like the Americans for three consecutive months." (

On the subject of a potential military conflict between Israel and Iran, the Sunday Times reported that Israel could send Iran ‘back to the stone age’ with an electromagnetic bomb, whose detonation would disrupt all of Iran's technological devices.

There are Israelis who say that Israel can live with the Iran deal (see for example this article by Prof. Uzi Even, physics professor at Tel Aviv University and served as a scientist at the Dimona reactor,7340,L-4680188,00.html), but most I have read, including Former Chief of Military Intelligence Amos Yadlin (who ran on the Zionist Union slate)  have said it's a bad deal.

US Secretary of State John Kerry was asked on NBC if the nuclear deal signed between the world powers and Iran in Vienna would make it more likely that Israel would attempt an attack. Kerry said: “That’d be an enormous mistake, a huge mistake with grave consequences for Israel and for the region, and I don’t think it’s necessary.” He added: “Iran would then have a reason to say, ‘Well, this is why we need the bomb.'”

Kerry has referred to former Mossad Chief Efraim Halevy as supporting the agreement when Kerry appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 23.

According to Israel Hayom, Halevy told Israeli Channel 2 television on July 25 that he was very surprised that Kerry mentioned him during the hearing. "The agreement has several provisions that are very good for Israel, but it also has provisions that are not so good," he said. Halevy said the Iranians will likely try to deceive the West, and that the only question is "where and when." He added that it would take three or four years before we can render a verdict on the agreement noting that the inspections and monitoring it stipulated "have flaws." He added that the agreement essentially "paves the way for Iran's nuclearization in 10 to 15 years."

The Time of Israel reported Halevy as having said 'There is the problem that after 10-15 years, there is the option for Iran to make a nuclear bomb.”  According to the Times, Halevy said that an agreement with a timeline greater than a decade would not hold up in the international arena, and explained that 10 years was an eternity in the Middle East. “There are less good elements in the agreement,” he said, “that require a great deal of work to follow up [on Iran’s activities], not just for the United Nations, but also for intelligence services around the world.”He added: “But in a situation where it is impossible to separate Iran from a nuclear weapon, inasmuch as Iran refuses to give up on all of its capabilities, they reached an agreement that facilitates other kinds of options, that yielded a period of time in which it is possible to create a different atmosphere in the Middle East.” ( To read an article by Halevy on the subject, go to

Paul Berman, in an interesting short piece in Tablet, outlines how the deal will be a disaster unless political change (ie a revolution) comes to Iran in the short or medium term.

All said, I am very worried about the Iran deal and what it may portend for Israel's future. (Although if a Republican is elected  President, the deal could well be cancelled( albeit the US would have to convince other nations to re-impose sanctions.). There are now 3 top Jewish house Democrats who have just come out against the Iran deal (Will others join suit?).

Alas, on the subject of the Coburg Hotel, there are in fact six caves underneath the hotel and residence of the Palais, which house 50,000 bottles of fine and rare wines. I have wondered how many bottles were consumed in order to get the Iran deal signed.

Michael Totten has an excellent piece outlining Iran's goal of Regional hegemony, and how Iranian government’s ultimate goal is regional hegemony and that its nuclear weapons program is simply a means to that end." As Totten notes, "Roughly 15 percent of Saudi Arabia’s citizens are Shias. They’re not a large minority, but Syria’s Alawites are no larger and they’ve been ruling the entire country since 1971. And Shias make up the absolute majority in the Eastern Province, the country’s largest, where most of the oil is concentrated."

As Totten concludes if Iran's Shias try to team up with Saudia Arabia's Shias, against Saudia's Sunnis such that Iranian adventurism spreads to Saudi Arabia, "The entire world’s oil patch will have turned into a shatter zone."

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.