Few would envy Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s role during the forthcoming
months. Whatever spin is applied, the Obama administration is refusing to
draw red lines on timing prior to resorting to military action to forestall
Iran’s nuclear threat. With an impending new round of “negotiations” with the
Iranians virtually guaranteed to be futile, the situation for Israel remains
highly disconcerting. Besides, much of the public debate on the issue is
conjecture as most commentators are simply unequipped to assess the practicality
of resolving the threat by military means.
But recent events in
Washington do provide some grounds for optimism.
The American people and
a bipartisan Congress are today more genuinely supportive toward Israel’s
security and wellbeing than at any time since the creation of the Jewish state.
This was also reflected in President Obama’s address to AIPAC.
during elections, many promises are made which are invariably subsequently
repudiated. And yes, four years ago, when he stood for election, Obama at AIPAC
also made warm statements concerning Israel.
But even allowing for
election fever, Obama’s almost desperate efforts to persuade Jews and the
American people that he supports Israel “the historic homeland of the Jewish
people,” went beyond anything this administration had previously expressed. And
he would not have felt compelled to do so were it not for the genuinely
supportive attitude of the American people.
We would have preferred the
president be more specific about his readiness to revert to a military option,
and he was clearly pleading for Israel to hold back and allow more time for
sanctions to bite. But he has now explicitly recognized the “unacceptable”
existential threat that Iran poses not only to Israel but to the entire free
Whether he meant it or not, he unambiguously disavowed reliance on
containment and was more forthcoming than previously with reference to the
employment of force should sanctions fail. His tacit approval for Israel to take
whatever steps it considers necessary to defend itself was a major policy tilt
from the harsh threats and warnings directed against us over recent months from
various elements in the administration.
Yet by failing to specify a time
frame by which diplomacy and sanctions could be deemed to have failed or to
provide Iran with an ultimatum, Obama is asking Israel to trust him and await
the outcome of sanctions. In his time frame, military action would be
unlikely prior to the elections and once re-elected, the current political
pressures on him to act forcefully would be substantially eased.
reticence is not surprising. This administration, which burned itself in
successive wars in the Middle East and is currently seeking to extricate itself
from the region, has little enthusiasm for military conflict with the Iranians.
Obama also fears the economic repercussions which could impact on the elections
if he becomes involved in a conflict with Iran in this volatile oil-producing
On the assumption that secret discussions behind closed doors
between Netanyahu and Obama relating to a specific time schedule were
inconclusive, Israel would in all likelihood be confronted with a “containment”
policy by default if it blindly relied on the United States. In such a scenario,
it would be of little comfort to us if the Obama administration subsequently
disowns responsibility by citing failures of its intelligence agencies to
adequately monitor Iran’s nuclear progress.
understands this and realizes he must therefore independently prepare the nation
to do whatever is deemed necessary to protect our national interests and ensure
our survival. To this effect, complaints that Netanyahu overstated the threat by
alluding to the Holocaust were entirely unwarranted and his analogy was entirely
appropriate. After all, Ahmadinejad and other Iranian messianic cult leaders are
today again explicitly directing genocidal threats against us and threatening to
wipe us off the face of the map.
We would like to believe that the US
would support us if we became engaged in a military conflict with the
Iranians. However, when one observes the indifference of the civilized
world, including the Obama administration, toward the current slaughter in Syria
and recollects how, despite firm undertakings, the US and others failed to
support Israel prior to the 1967 Six Day War, we require little persuasion to be
convinced that ultimately we must rely on ourselves.
therefore intensify efforts to obtain clarification of Obama’s future intentions
and continue pressing the administration, at the very least, to strengthen
sanctions, building on the goodwill which currently prevails among the American
people. Even if reelected, Obama must take into account public opinion and if
Congress retains its strong bi-partisan support for Israel, it may at least
inhibit a return to the bad old days.
On the other hand, Obama did not
exaggerate when he boasted to AIPAC that his recent speech at the United Nations
was the most pro-Israel address ever made by a US president at a global forum.
Nor can one fault our defense relationship with the United States, which remains
at an all-time high.
But expressions of love and abundant use of clichés
such as “our unbreakable bonds” and “I have Israel’s back” are insufficient. The
Palestinian issue will invariably return to the fore. Despite years of bullying
us diplomatically, Obama has yet to condemn the Palestinians for their
incitement, terrorism, intransigence and refusal to indulge in
We need clarification of US support for the major
settlement blocs and defensible borders as it is abundantly clear that the Obama
prescription of Israel retaining 1967 armistice lines plus “mutual” swaps will
never be achieved with the current Palestinian leadership. Above all, he should
decisively reject the “Arab refugee right of return” which if implemented would
lead to our demise. If he moves in this direction, we could say that
despite his former displays of animosity toward Netanyahu and his obsession with
appeasing the Muslim world, his words of support are meaningful and not merely
Viewed overall, Netanyahu’s visit to Washington
achieved the best possible outcome. He can certainly take major credit for
having effectively raised awareness of the Iranian threat to its highest global
level. He has played the good cop-bad cop approach and clearly succeeded in
encouraging President Obama to adopt a far more positive attitude in relation to
our existential concerns about Iran.
Regrettably, much of our future
course of action remains in limbo. But we should constantly remind ourselves
that notwithstanding the intensified feral hostility from our regional
neighbors, we have never been in a stronger military position. And despite
Obama’s subsequent warnings that a premature strike would “have consequences for
the US as well as Israel,” President Obama has effectively provided Israel with
a green light to act as it considers necessary to defend its vital interests if
sanctions fail to deter the Iranians.
We should also feel satisfied that
when Netanyahu told AIPAC: “As prime minister of Israel, I will never let my
people live in the shadow of annihilation,” he meant it and that the Jewish
state guarantees that the Jewish people have the capacity to defend itself and
overcome its adversaries.The writer’s website can be viewed at
www.wordfromjerusalem.com He may be contacted at