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Friday, May 08, 2009

The coming Obama-Netanyahu schism

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is to meet with American President Barack Hussein Obama in Washington on Monday, May 18. It will be the first meeting between the two since they were each elected their country's leader.

There is much trepidation about this meeting here in Israel. Many people fear that the disagreements that have made it into the media are going to become full-blown with serious consequences for the American-Israeli relationship, at least so long as the current leaders are in power. On the other hand, no one should really be surprised. The public here anticipated this possibility and decided that Netanyahu should lead the country despite it. In fact, I would argue that if the blowup occurs, many Israelis will say that Netanyahu should be our leader because he would become one of the few leaders in the Western world to stand up to Obama.

This afternoon, Israel Radio's political analyst, Yaron Dekel, tried to argue that there will not be a blowup at next Monday's meeting. Dekel argued that the disagreements are 'false' and that they would never have happened had Netanyahu not inadvertently forced Obama to react by being so careful not to endorse a 'two-state solution.' According to Dekel, Obama has far bigger fish to fry than the Israeli-'Palestinian' conflict, and has no rational reason to enter into this kind of dispute with Israel. Charles Krauthammer also calls this dispute a 'phony fight' in his article in today's Washington Post, but the fact that the fight has a 'phony' basis doesn't make it real, as I pointed out in my post on Krauthammer's article and said I would discuss further.

Dekel was followed to the mike by Yediot/YNet's Sever Plocker, but unfortunately, at that point I drove through an area where a pirate radio station drowns out Israel Radio and I did not get to hear his arguments. But Caroline Glick and David Horovitz both believe that the fight between Obama and Netanyahu is about to explode, and I suspect their arguments are similar to Plocker's.

Glick's argument is that yes, there is a dispute between Netanyahu and Obama, but the silver lining in that cloud is that the shoddy treatment Obama and his minions gave to Israel at the AIPAC conference this week give Israel a green light to act against Iran.
REGARDLESS OF the weight of Netanyahu's arguments, and irrespective of the reasonableness of whatever diplomatic initiative he presents to Obama, he can expect no sympathy or support from the White House.

As a consequence, the operational significance of the administration's anti-Israel positions is that Israel will not be well served by adopting a more accommodating posture toward the Palestinians and Iran. Indeed, perversely, what the Obama administration's treatment of Israel should be making clear to the Netanyahu government is that Israel should no longer take Washington's views into account as it makes its decisions about how to advance Israel's national security interests. This is particularly true with regard to Iran's nuclear weapons program.

Rationally speaking, the only way the Obama administration could reasonably expect to deter Israel from attacking Iran's nuclear installations would be if it could make the cost for Israel of attacking higher than the cost for Israel of not attacking. But what the behavior of the Obama administration is demonstrating is that there is no significant difference in the costs of the two options.

By blaming Israel for the absence of peace in the Middle East while ignoring the Palestinians' refusal to accept Israel's right to exist; by seeking to build an international coalition with Europe and the Arabs against Israel while glossing over the fact that at least the Arabs share Israel's concerns about Iran; by exposing Israel's nuclear arsenal and pressuring Israel to disarm while in the meantime courting the ayatollahs like an overeager bridegroom, the Obama administration is telling Israel that regardless of what it does, and what objective reality is, as far as the White House is concerned, Israel is to blame.
While most of the specific news events in Glick's column are things I discussed this week on this blog, Glick also adds a couple of tidbits that I did not see in the media. First, the media was barred from Obama's meeting with Shimon Peres. Second, Arab League Secretary Amr Musssa said that there is no connection between Israel's dispute with the 'Palestinians' and Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons.

In any event, read the whole thing.

David Horovitz titles his weekly column "The Rupture" and that probably tells you where he's going. Horowitz says there's an 'abyss' between Israel's red lines on Iran obtaining nuclear weapons and the United States' position.
Where Iran is concerned, Israel's red lines are drawn in a very different - earlier - place than those of the United States. We worry - existentially - that the Iranians may use the bomb if they get it, or supply it to a third party. But short of its use, we worry about the shift in the Middle East balance of power that would be produced by a nuclear Iran; the regional nuclear arms race it would spark; the knock-out blow to Israeli-Arab normalization; the emboldening of Hamas and Hizbullah; and the greater indifference to international pressures that Iran would feel when considering which weaponry to provide for these vicious proxies to the top and bottom of Israel.

And so, in 10 days' time, it can be safely assumed that Netanyahu will tell Obama flatly that Israel will not accept a nuclear Iran, and that the point of no return is looming - a message laden with implications regarding possible Israeli action in its own defense.


WHILE NETANYAHU has accepted that Obama's opening gambit, engagement, can be useful, the intended US timeline, the goals and the benchmarks currently lack cogent definition. Israel's leadership has come to fear that our country's existence is at stake, and America offers no solace.

From Israel's point of view, it is the "breakout" capacity that must be prevented - the point at which Iran's bomb-makers have obtained enough sufficiently enriched uranium to be able to break out to the bomb as and when they choose. This means that the US engagement must have worked, or been deemed not to, by year's end at the very latest (but probably before, if those thousands of Natanz centrifuges keep spinning smoothly) - in order to leave time for further pressures and actions. The window for diplomacy could be widened if the Iranians agreed to verifiably halt enrichment while diplomacy proceeded, but nobody is betting on that.

This breakout point is critical because, whatever the miscalibrated and amateurishly presented 2007 American National Intelligence Estimate might have asserted, Israel is convinced that Iran has everything else ready to go - that is, neither delivery systems nor weaponization constitute obstacles to the Iranian bomb any longer.

That exceedingly grim Israeli estimate, furthermore, is echoed in a report produced on Wednesday by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which said that intelligence analysts and nuclear experts working for unnamed foreign governments now believed "Iran had produced a suitable design, manufactured some components and conducted enough successful explosives tests to put the project on the shelf until it manufactured the fissile material required for several weapons."


In December 2006, holdover Defense Secretary Robert Gates told his Senate confirmation hearings that US military intervention to stop an Iranian bomb was an option to be considered only "as a last resort and if we felt our vital interests were threatened." (My emphasis.) That American position has not changed. Only last month, Gates reiterated that "a military attack will only buy us time and send the program deeper and more covert."

Hearing that assessment today, some in our leadership seem increasingly uncertain that Washington, in this context, considers Israel a vital interest.
Read the whole thing.

The confrontation between Obama and Netanyahu is coming. The dispute between Obama and Netanyahu over the 'two-state solution' is a real dispute, but in the current context it is so unimportant - as pointed out by Krauthammer - as to make it look phony.

The real schism is over Iran. Obama naively trusts in his own ability to negotiate with Iran (or is just indifferent to Israel's continued existence) because his risks from being wrong are much smaller. For Israel and Netanyahu, the risks are existential. Israel must act when it deems it necessary to do so. If that means a schism with the United States - at least so long as Obama is in power - so be it.

Our relationship survived George H. W. Bush giving Yitzchak Shamir the White House phone number and cutting off the loan guarantees. It survived Bill Clinton orchestrating the 1999 defeat of Binyamin Netanyahu. It will survive this too. But first, Israel has to live another day for our relationship with the United States to survive. That's why Netanyahu will maintain his freedom of action on Iran regardless of what Obama says in Washington next week.


At 6:01 PM, Blogger NOMAD said...

Sorry, I am off topic, I wanted that you notice that some american neo-con blogs repicked on the Carrefour video in France, but thae purpose was more to show how those evil and dhimmi French are anti-semit too

here I Gathered a few links and my comments


If none tries to retablish the truth, then you see how rumors and and anti-semitism or anti- frenchism become the society rules

thanks for your fairness

At 9:13 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Israel is not Czechoslovakia and will not repeat the latter's mistake of doing nothing while a looming danger appears to its existence. Israel will act to stop Iran, preferably with American support but without it if necessary.

There will be NO Second Holocaust.


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