US President Obama with PM Netanyahu at White House 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
With another four years booked in the Oval Office, Barack Obama will be weighing
his options on the Middle East. He may decide to push Israel to make concessions
to the Palestinians in order to get the peace process back in motion, or, he may
decide, having had his fingers burnt in his previous attempt at getting the
sides to sit down together, to simply stay away from the conflict.
also decide – despite Rahm Emanuel’s assertions that there will be no revenge
factor – that it’s “payback time” for Binyamin Netanyahu’s perceived
intransigence on the Palestinian issue and interference in the US
One thing though is for sure: Iran will be on the
“It’s going to be very high on the agenda,” Martin Indyk, a former United States ambassador to Israel
during the Clinton administration, who is now the director for foreign policy at
the Brookings Institution in Washington, said yesterday of Iran’s nuclear
Obama, say Washington insiders, can be expected to give Iran a
last chance to come to the negotiating table with a serious offer that will
satisfy the Western powers – and Israel – that it has given up on any nuclear
Obama could, despite Iran’s post-election protestations
that “relations are not possible overnight,” even offer Tehran a “grand bargain”
that includes renewed diplomatic ties between the countries.
president, though, may not have time on his hands in his efforts to reach a
diplomatic solution. With Netanyahu also likely to gain another term in
January’s elections, Obama will be watching Israel’s nuclear Iran clock tick
While the threat of an Israeli strike may have eased over the last
couple of months, a reelected Netanyahu can be expected to turn the pressure
back up. Netanyahu set his nuclear red line during a speech in late September
before the UN General Assembly.
It would, said Netanyahu, be “next
spring, next summer at most,” before Iran reaches the medium enrichment stage
from which production of a nuclear bomb is no more than weeks or months
If Tehran drags its feet or refuses to play ball, Obama will be
faced with a dilemma to continue the path of sanctions, exercise its own
military option, or risk unilateral Israeli action. Indyk says he believes that
if negotiations fail, Obama will use force to eliminate Tehran’s nuclear
If Obama does decide on a strike, payback time may not be
long in coming.
As Indyk put it, Obama will follow up on military action
by saying, “Look I’ve dealt with the Iranian issue, now it’s your turn to make
progress on the Palestinian issue.”