Here I am to eat crow, willingly and happily. Cheryl was right and I was wrong – after Netanyahu’s speech to AIPAC tonight it’s pretty clear Israel won’t be unilaterally launching a preventative attack on Iran’s nuclear program just yet.
Netanyahu told Obama that he had not yet made any decision about whether to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, though he made it clear he did not rule out such a move in the future. In statements to the press both before and after the meeting Netanyahu said Israel has the sovereign right to defend itself against Iran.
“When it comes to Israel’s security, Israel has the right, the sovereign right, to makes its own decisions,” Netanyahu said before the meeting. “My supreme responsibility as prime minister of Israel is to ensure that Israel remains the master of its fate.”
Obama agreed that Israel had the right to defend itself, adding, “I want to assure both the American people and the Israeli people that we are in constant and close consultation … and I intend to make sure that that continues during what will be a series of difficult months, I suspect, in 2012.”
Netanyahu told Obama he believed Iran’s leaders were determined to wipe out Israel.
“They mean it,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying to Obama. “If this will be resolved by diplomacy, great. But we have to prepare for the worst-case scenario. The pressure on Iran has indeed increased, but time is getting short.”
But as today’s New York Times editorial points out, the talk is increasingly tending towards war.
Mr. Obama has long said that all options are on the table. In recent days his language has become more pointed ”” urged on, undoubtedly, by Israel’s threats to act alone.
Last week he told The Atlantic, ”œwhen the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say.” In a speech on Sunday to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, he declared that his policy is not to contain Iran, it is ”œto prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
The United States military is far more capable of doing serious damage to Iran’s facilities than the Israeli military, but the cost would still be high, with many of the same dangers and uncertainties.
Mr. Obama is right that military action should only be the last resort, but Israel should not doubt this president’s mettle. Neither should Iran.
Obama has clearly said he has Israel’s back, repeatedly, in the last couple of days. Reports a month ago that Israel had been told it would act alone if it attacked Iran without US permission are now just old newsprint. Another Haaretz writer, Sefi Rachlevsky, suggests this state of affairs suits Netanyahu just fine.
Those Israeli planners who believe in an attack have one hope only – that the United States will be dragged in and complete the Israeli move.
The Israeli operation is meant to be a hydrogen bomb, with the Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities serving as the detonator. If numerous missiles land on Tel Aviv and American assets in the region are hit, the carefully chosen timing, right before the U.S. elections, is supposed to compel Obama to send the only military force capable of destroying Iran’s nuclear program.
Sometime between early June and mid-August, just before the Republican nominating convention, will be the ideal moment to drag the United States into war, the planners believe.
…The goal of the Israeli maneuvering is simple – to generate American chatter that will prepare the ground for dragging the United States into the battle following the Israeli strike. That’s all.
The ground is now prepared, I’d say. If I was Obama, I would not be feeling too comfortable.