A trap of his own making

Netanyahu’s panicked reaction to the deal being hatched in Washington indicates his belated recognition of the costs of his approach.

Netanyahu looking determined 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Netanyahu looking determined 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The reported deal proposed to the Iranians in Geneva by the Obama administration was not aimed at halting Iran’s nuclear march.
It was meant to block an Israeli preemptive attack.
Had France not objected, the deal between the world’s major powers and the mullahs would have essentially put the lid on any Israeli attack as diplomatically suicidal, or so Washington had apparently hoped.
It must be understood that stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program is, and has been, secondary to Obama’s foremost goal of avoiding involvement in another far-off military confrontation.
Accordingly, the leaders deemed most hazardous to Washington’s supreme national interest are those who could drag America into war by acting “recklessly.” Today they are the ones residing in Jerusalem.
If this sounds as if Washington has taken a page from the mullah’s propaganda book it might be recalled that Wendy Sherman, the chief US negotiator, told journalists on the eve of the Geneva gathering that Washington sought an interim deal to “put time on the clock.”
The idea, she said, was to “negotiate the final agreement without Iran’s nuclear program continuing to march forward.” Left unsaid but clearly understood was that slowing down the Israeli clock would be accomplished as well.
Indeed Obama’s failure to uphold his own publicly announced “red line” against the use of chemical weapons in Syria should be the final confirmation that there is no military option on the American president’s table regarding Iran.
The mullahs were quick to recognize Obama’s true agenda and thus their sudden haste to reach an “agreement.”
Their strategy was simple and effective – the more they provoked Israel into issuing warnings and flexing its muscles the greater the alarm felt by the Obama administration about an imminent explosion in the Middle East, and the lower the price Iran would have to offer to reach a nuclear deal with Washington.
Incredibly, Israel obliged. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu issued frequent warnings that time is running out to stop Iran diplomatically, that Israel will take care of its own security and that it will do so even if it “stands alone.” Israel also rattled its sabers.
For example on the eve of the Geneva talks it became known that the Israel Air Force(IAF) had conducted an “unusually large exercise” over the northern border and the Mediterranean Sea on the night of October 12-13.
A few days earlier it was announced that the IAF held a series of drills which included midair refueling, long-distance coordinated strikes, and dogfights, carried out over Greek waters. The video of the exercises released on that occasion by the IAF marked the first time the military had made such a clip publicly available.
The Israeli warnings and muscle- flexing were undertaken despite clear evidence the approach was backfiring – witness the non-stop pilgrimage of senior Obama administration officials who rushed to Jerusalem to press for restraint.
In essence Israel’s policy has been utterly counterproductive – it failed to deter Iran’s march to the bomb yet firmed Obama’s conviction that he must placate the mullahs if he is to maintain his military disengagement agenda and prevent a Middle East war.
While internationalization of the Iran nuclear issue – which began under Ariel Sharon and was promoted to the max by Netanyahu – is generally considered a wise strategy in Israel, its pitfalls have increasingly become clear.
Mobilizing the world’s major powers to handle Iran curtailed Israel’s freedom of action. It undermined the credibility of Israel’s military option vis-a-vis Iran. Israel also lost control over the outcome of any negotiations with Tehran.
It had put Israel’s relations with its greatest strategic ally – the US – in jeopardy.
Most importantly, opting for international diplomacy wasted precious time to act, and the delay also helped Iran move ever closer to the bomb.
Netanyahu’s panicked reaction to the deal being hatched in Washington indicates his belated recognition of the costs of his approach. Ironically he now castigates his international “partners,” asking “what is the rush” to reach a “bad” agreement with Iran.
But his loud protestations are nothing more than a desperate attempt to publicly exonerate himself as the diplomatic trap he himself helped set envelope Israel.The writer is the author of The Continuing Storm: Iraq, Poisonous Weapons and Deterrence (Yale University Press).