When Air Force One touches down in Tel Aviv, there will be many essential issues
for US President Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to tackle during
the president’s three days in Israel.
The dominating concern trumping all
other matters, however, is Iran’s accelerating drive toward a nuclear
weapon.Click here for full JPost coverage of Obama's visit to Israel
The president and the prime minister will make critical decisions
together that will largely determine the coordinated American-Israeli plan to
eliminate the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.
Over the past four years,
diplomatic outreach and the implementation of devastating economic sanctions
have largely dominated the discussion of how to immediately respond to Iran’s
nuclear ambitions. Under the leadership of President Obama, US and world
sanctions have virtually halted Iran’s ability to access the international
financial system and have decimated the Iranian energy sector – the financial
lifeline of the regime’s illicit nuclear program.
The Iranian regime is
now losing $5 billion a month, and estimates predict revenues from oil imports
could drop another 25 percent in the first quarter of this year. The ultimate
goal of these sanctions is to cause enough pain for the Iranian leadership that
they are left with no choice but to abandon their nuclear
Because this has yet to happen, Obama and Netanyahu must
clearly show the Iranian regime that only a diplomatic resolution can prevent
the United States and Israel from exercising any necessary option to prevent
Iranian nuclear arms and the threat they would pose to Israel, the broader
Middle East and the world.
DESPITE SANCTIONS, the Iranian leadership has
pressed aggressively forward with their nuclear plans. According to an IAEA
report released last month, Iran has started to install advanced centrifuges at
Natanz that can enrich uranium two to three times faster than current
centrifuges, cutting the time to make a weapon by a third.
nuclear advancement by Iran means that 2013 must be the year when Tehran
reverses course and moves toward a face-saving international agreement. If Iran
refuses to respond to the world’s efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear
weapons to the largest state sponsor of terror and an accomplice to Assad’s
slaughter of his people, military action will be the only remaining
Obama and his administration have consistently stated that
the military option remains on the table, and Obama will not allow himself to go
down in history as the American leader who allowed Iran to obtain a nuclear
weapon. The Obama administration has rejected a policy of nuclear containment
for Iran because this is a regime whose reckless and destabilizing impact on the
Middle East and the world would only be emboldened with a nuclear weapon. Iran
already provides training and millions of dollars worth of weapons to Syria; it
ships rockets and weapons to terrorist groups in Gaza, and Iran’s proxy in
Lebanon, Hezbollah, has more than 60,000 rockets pointed at Israel.
will be the tenth and most important meeting between the president and the prime
minister. Obama will sit with Netanyahu in Jerusalem, less than a thousand miles
from Tehran. Their level of trust and cooperation will be essential to
successfully stopping Iran. Obama will agree to keep the window open for
diplomacy even as Congress and our international allies maximize pressure on
But Netanyahu will want American assurances that a military
strike is an option if diplomacy fails, and he will get it on this
Often, meetings between US presidents and Israeli prime ministers
are occasions for dramatic announcements. Success on this trip will be
On this trip, the difficult decisions and planning with regard
to Iran will not be discussed publicly. The most important decisions made by
these two leaders will be behind closed doors.
Tehran will be watching,
however. The Iranian regime will be watching this trip closely for signs of
division between these leaders on stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions, but
they will not find it. What the Iranians will see is the powerful image of Obama
and Netanyahu standing shoulder to shoulder, the president of the most powerful
nation in the world united with its extraordinary partner and ally, committed to
ensuring Israel’s security. The author represents Florida’s 21st district and
is the ranking member of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.