The boxing match we have witnessed in recent weeks between the White House in Washington and the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on the Iranian issue has developed into an embarrassment for both sides. After all, we are talking here about two true and close partners and allies. At a very crucial moment in our history we watch a foolish blame game while the real enemy of both allies is, simply put, enjoying this rift.

This heated debate has taken a dangerous turn following a series of interviews by Defense Minister Ehud Barak and comments by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in recent weeks.

First they started in the foreign press and later shifted to the local one (for example Barak’s interview with Ari Shavit under the title “The Decision Maker” in Haaretz).

This has compelled US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey to convene a special press conference to rebuff some of their comments. Thereafter, the snowball has been rolling downhill at high speed in a manner totally adverse to the interests of both sides and to the resolution of the issue itself.

I for one am not opposed to the possibility of an Israeli attack against the Iranian nuclear installations, should we find out that all other options have been taken off the table. I believe in our right to do so if this is what it takes to remove this threat.

However, militarily speaking this is not a “one shot, clear result” affair and cannot be compared to anything which we have witnessed so far. It could widen into a regional war which may last for quite some time. To merely attack does not guarantee success; immense, prolonged effort will be required to insure Iran’s nuclear ambitions are thwarted.

Therefore, it requires full coordination, especially regarding the “day after,” to achieve the objective of bringing the Iranian nuclear program to a full halt while also being able to meet any possible scenario that could emerge from such an assault.

For these reasons, we need to be fully in coordination with the US and its military and diplomatic might. We need the world to understand – and especially, for our enemies to see – that Israel and the United States are in unison on this subject. Barak and Netanyahu should have understood this, but unfortunately failed to do so.

The ongoing rebukes from Jerusalem regarding the ineffectiveness of the USled effort so far is a grave mistake. It has been interpreted in certain quarters in Washington as a intervention in the US elections. It has led to further frustrations and to a retaliatory mistake by Gen. Dempsey, saying he did not want to be “an accomplice,” no less, to an Israeli attack against Iran (certainly a comment which does not serve US deterrence against Iran.) This spiral of emotions on both sides comes at a time when the security cooperation between the both nations has reached new heights, when the US has built and led a robust international effort against Iran including heavy, unprecedented sanctions, and when it has shifted a huge army and navy to the Gulf region. Rather than developing intimacy between the leaders to discuss this most crucial challenge, the ongoing criticism confuses its partners and supporters.

As opposed to other nations which have developed nuclear capability, in the case of Iran there is a regional consensus as well as a combined international effort led by the most powerful nations.

So far the Iranians have not backed down and we are now at the stage of “who blinks first.” Its tense and nerve-wracking.

It is precisely at this delicate moment that we need to demonstrate, in word and deed, our full unity with the United States. We need to evince calmness and prepare for all options.

The effect of the Netanyahu-Barak behavior and the Obama-Panetta- Dempsey response has not served this purpose. To the contrary. It has led to heightened anxiety within the Israeli public. It has sent wrong signals around the region and the globe and most disturbingly it has sent the wrong signals to our enemies.

What therefore needs to happen is an immediate 180-degree turn. Netanyahu and Barak need to go into total silence.

They need to open the relevant professional channels between the two administrations and start talking about each others’ needs and anxieties, assessments and objectives. They need to devise an immediate understanding of when all other options are off the table and agree on a timeline for military action.

This can be done relatively quickly because of the superb underlying relationship between the two allies, and should culminate in a clear understanding between their respective leaders. The earlier, the better. For the challenge we share is immense and historical. We must overcome it together.

MK Isaac Herzog, a former cabinet minister, is currently the Labor Party group chairman in the Knesset and a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.


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