Ahmadinejad at nuclear ceremony in Tehran 390 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The biggest mystery right now is whether Israel will attack or not. The American
media are constantly addressing the issue – analyzing the hints, the subtext and
the alleged differences between Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu; spending a lot of time – too much time – allowing every
expert to contemplate if the IDF can or cannot do it; asking if Israel will or
won’t tell the US ahead of time, speculating if anyone can stop the
Well, the truth is that US President Barack Obama has a quick
and safe way to prevent Israel from attacking Iran.
He should just say:
“Trust me!” – but in a persuasive way.
Obama promised the American people
that the United States will not allow Iran to go nuclear. This was not said to
please Israelis but to convey a strategic interest of the US. It is a promise
that in every way is a test of the president’s leadership.
If he does not
keep his word, he will lose everything: his integrity, his support, the Middle
East, his Arab allies. That’s why he must create a reliable threat that he is
willing to act at some point, to give the order to the US military to attack
Iranian nuclear facilities.
To “speak softy and carry a big stick,” as
Theodore Roosevelt once said.
To stop an Israeli military attack, all
Obama should do is to say that now. To offer Netanyahu a presidential guarantee,
or even a secret letter, specifying that if certain red lines are crossed, this
will lead to an American attack.
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It won’t be easy. Israel’s leaders abide
by the “Holocaust-DNA,” meaning that when they swear “Never again!” they also
mean that even their closest ally – the United States – cannot be fully
As David Makovsky wrote in Foreign Policy: “Many Israeli
military leaders are children of Holocaust survivors who joined the Israeli army
to ensure Israeli self-reliance in fighting against enemies who regularly pledge
to eradicate it. A poignant reminder is the iconic photo of Israeli jets flying
over Auschwitz in 2003, which hangs on the walls of many of their
“Nonetheless, it is a fundamental misreading of Israel to view
this as an ideological issue. Israeli considerations of a strike are rooted not
in their ethos of self-reliance, but in the fear that the United States will
ultimately fail to strike, even if sanctions fail.”
This means that IDF
officers and Israeli political leaders remember that the US knew about Auschwitz
but did not act in time. The toll was millions of Jewish lives.
said that, an honest proposal by the US would lead, at least, to a debate in the
cabinet. Not all Israelis cabinet ministers are enthusiastic about military
action. This can be the means to force an internal Israeli debate.
be the alternative to the “no-other-option” campaign.
would be the ultimate proof of Obama’s support for Israel, an answer to all the
Republicans who accuse him of not being pro-Israel enough.
it would be the almost the only way for the US to leave Iraq and Afghanistan not
as losers but strong and proud, not as a nation running away from the Middle
East but as one dealing with the dangerous forces in it differently and
The only problem with such an “insurance policy” against an
Israeli attack is that the red lines could be crossed and the words could turn
into a new American war in the Middle East.
That is not an easy decision
– but it is, perhaps, the only one that leaves control in American
hands.The writer is diplomatic correspondent for Channel 2 News
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