We''re seeing another uptick in Israelis publicly pondering an attack on Iran''s nuclear facilities.
It might not come today, or ever.
The increase in comments attributed to highly placed Israeli officials may be nothing more than frustrated politicians'' efforts to move the public''s focus away from domestic disturbances. The provocation may be criticism directed at the farce of trying to find a new Governor of the Bank of Israel, or the growing threats against the existing party leadership by restless Knesset Members to the right of the Prime Minister and his shrinking number of loyalists.
The threats against Iran attributed to ranking officials may come out of the Prime Minister''s office, or they may come from the Prime Minister''s critics who already have reached high office, and are looking higher. Prominent among the possibilities are the Deputy Foreign Minister Ze''ev Elkin, and the Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon.
There are also some reasons disconnected from domestic politics to produce this increase in aggressive language.
Prominent among the comments by unnamed ranking members of the Israeli establishment are criticisms of the American administration.
Included here are several issues touching Israel, Iran, and elsewhere in the Middle East.
- Growing indications that the United States will find one reason after another to ditther while Iran moves ever closer to nuclear weapons
- The impotence of the United States with respect to the development of nuclear weapons by North Korea, indications that US-led campaign of sanctions may be hurting the Iranian economy, but are not deterring its government''s nuclear program, and persistent aspirations of the US to deal with Iran politically despite one failure after another
- Reinforcing the same line of analysis is the waffling of the White House with respect to Syrian use of chemical weapons. While there is no sign that many Israelis are surprised or upset about the use of chemical weapons by one or another group of Arab fighters against others over its northern border, it is the wavering and ultimately the withdrawal of US threats that add to the expectation that Israel can expect nothing from the US capable of ending Iran''s nuclear program.
- If all the above was not enough, Israelis find additional support for their suspicions from the bumbling and naivete of the Obama Administration vis a vis Egypt. The President cannot seem to make up his mind between support of the Muslim Brotherhood as a legitimate player in Egyptian politics, or his support for the military. While dithering continues in Washington, the US has come in for some sharp criticism from both Islamic activists and the Egyptian military.
The prison sentences appear as one more sign of Turkey''s move toward a more assertive Islam, and demonstrate the impotence of Americans and Europeans to keep one of their NATO allies on their side, or at least neutral, in the global conflict that is currently most important..
At the heart of all this wondering and criticism of US actions and inactions is the growing conclusion that the US is unable to decide between supporting governments likely to be cooperative, and hewing to aspirations for Western style democracy in a region that--apparently unknown to lots of ranking Americans--is on the other side of the amorphous border between the west and something else.
No one should envy the United States. So many problems, with so many complications of religion, nationalism, and local politics in cultures vaguely comprehended by American experts. Who should the US support in the Syrian morass, for example, with its minority-based government aided by Russia, Iran, and certified Lebanese terrorists, but opposed by Islamic elements no less likely to be unfriendly to the US and its allies?
Turkey and Egypt each present different problems, but they share similar complications for deep thinking but shallow American weighing of western norms of free elections and democracy against the not so vague threats associated with Islam, and the fuzzy differences between moderate Islam, assertive Islam, and Islamic extremism likely to be aggressive. In all of this, Turkey and Egypt are currently higher on American front pages and internet sites, but Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen are also unsettled, along with the same old problems in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Mali, and Nigeria.
Being sympathetic with the problems of the United States is not the same as signing on blindly to American leadership.
But how much choice does little Israel have?
Few Israeli commentators are expecting an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities by anyone, leaving aside pinpricks by governmental hackers (perhaps Israeli or American) who may delay Iranian aspirations, or even produce major problems in one or another elements of its nuclear industry.
More likely is a failure of Israel to do all that Americans want with respect to Palestinians. There are serious domestic impediments to extensive concessions, as well as a profound distrust of the United States to deliver on what the Israeli Prime Minister has repeatedly described as the major strategic threat of Iran.
Those wanting solutions to the multiple storms roiling the Middle East should move to another planet or spend more time with the games available on their electronic gadgets. Whatever happens will most likely respond to local forces, or to those outsiders familiar with the languages, ethnic politics and religious factions, and only marginally if at all to the comments of the American President and the actions of an American bureaucracy.
Look out for yourself is the theme, accompanied by affirmations of great thanks for American support, along with uncertainty about tomorrow.