PM Netanyahu with US President Obama at White House 311.
(photo credit: Avi Ohayon / GPO)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s impending talks in Washington with President
Barack Obama could determine whether these two leaders can mobilize an effective
bilateral or international effort to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear
This is an existential issue for Israel. The Jewish state has been
threatened with annihilation by the Islamic Republic of Iran, not only by its
arrogant and fanatical President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but also by its supreme
political and religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
threatened publicly to wipe Israel off the map. This is tantamount to a call for
a second Holocaust. The fact that Ahmadinejad denies that the Nazis committed
genocide against the Jews of Europe by killing six million of them between 1933
and 1945 makes his hateful rhetoric all the more dangerous.
wants the free world, led by the US, to intensify its policy of deterrence by
imposing tougher economic sanctions, exerting more severe diplomatic pressure or
launching military operations designed to thwart Iran’s nuclear
Only two countries – the US and Israel – actually have the
tactical capability to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities, according to former
defense minister Moshe Arens.
He is certain that Israeli warplanes can
fulfill this mission singlehandedly if necessary.
Weighing his words very
carefully and refusing to elaborate on the short- and longterm consequences,
Arens says only that Israeli air strikes would have a “significant”
One of the problems inherent in any analysis of this situation is
that the relevant intelligence accumulated by the CIA and the Mossad cannot be
shared with the mass media.
This means that this material is immune to
objective analysis or judgment. It is conceivable that Netanyahu will present to
President Obama the latest findings and assessments of his agents (the Mossad is
subject directly and exclusively to the prime minister).
presumed ability to obtain valuable information about contemporary Iran through
its own means is an important factor in its role as an important and influential
ally of the US. The possibility that Teheran’s totalitarian regime might subject
Israel to a nuclear attack cannot be ruled out.
Tehran would not be
deterred by the likelihood that the casualty toll would be horrendous and that
it probably would include thousands of non-Jewish victims. This assumption is
not only based on the fact that 20 percent of Israel’s population is Arab, but
also because more than 1.5 million Palestinian Arabs who live in the West Bank
would be within the field of fire. Iranian missiles armed with nuclear warheads
could fall short of their main target and strike in the Palestinian areas that
are adjacent to Israel.
Suprisingly, there has been no international
outcry against the notion that the Holy Land might be subjected to a nuclear
onslaught. This implies indifference on Iran’s part to the possibility that
Islamic shrines, including those on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount (referred to by
Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary), might be damaged or destroyed.
horrific consequences of an Iranian missile strike are unlikely to deter the
likes of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, however.
For the past two decades or
more, Muslim extremists have engaged in countless acts of violence in which
their fellow-believers were targeted and killed. These victims have included
pilgrims who converged on Islamic shrines in Iraq, Pakistan and other
Timing is likely to be high up on the Obama-Netanyahu
Obama may oppose any kind of military operation
before the presidential election in November because it may cost him votes if
the results are unsatisfactory or unimpressive.
His thinking may be
influenced in part by the principle that one always knows when and how a
bilateral conflict began, but one never knows when and how it will come to an
During the run-up to Netanyahu’s trip to Washington, there have been
numerous, frequent and unusually intensive discussions between American and
Israeli officials in Washington and Jerusalem. The contents, however, were not
made public for obvious reasons.
The American approach probably is
influenced by a traditional reluctance to team up with the Israelis at the
This derives from the US effort to preserve the image
of an “honest broker” who enjoys good relations with most of the Arab states as
well as with Israel. That is the way it was 20 years ago at the outbreak of the
first Iraq war, when the Israelis were politely asked to keep their warplanes on
the ground despite their understandable desire to punish the Iraqis for their
pre-war missile attacks.
Obama’s advisers on Middle Eastern affairs
probably have warned him that open collusion between the US and Israel against
Iran might embarrass the Saudi monarchy, which regards Tehran’s Shi’ite
extremists as a danger to its survival, but cannot risk being perceived as being
on the same side as the Israelis.
All of these considerations must be
taken into account by Obama and Netanyahu.
The bottom line, however, is
that neither can afford to let the Iranians go on with their nuclear program
which is being conducted in defiance of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s
findings and conclusions.
The fact that a team of IAEA inspectors was
denied access to one of their nuclear facilities on their last visit is enough
to make the president and prime minister buckle down and work out a realistic
plan to bring the nightmare of a nuclear Iran to an end as soon as
possible.The writer is a veteran foreign correspondent.