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What Netanyahu will ask Obama for on Monday

With Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu due at the White House Monday for talks with Pres. Obama about the Iran nuclear program, Yossi Klein Halevi, Israel correspondent for the strongly pro-Israel New Republic, writes that Netanyahu will seek a clear, public Obama declaration that the U.S. will use military force (no more of this “all options on the table” shilly-shallying) to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability.

If Netanyahu can’t get that (which Halevi doubts he can),he predicts that Israel will move forward with plans to strike the Iranian program before it gets past the point at which Israel believes it can stop Iran from making a bomb and a delivery vehicle. Here’s the Halevi quote:

“Israel needs a public, unambiguous warning from Obama to Iran that, if sanctions fail, America will use military force—that a nuclear Iran is as much a red line for this administration as, say, an Iranian blockade of the Straits of Hormuz. Only that kind of threat has the chance of restoring American credibility—not only for Israel, but also for the Arab world and, not least, for Iran.

Given that Obama is unlikely to make that threat, Israel will hope, at least, for a change in the administration’s signals about an Israeli strike. Iranian leaders need to hear from Obama that Israel has the right to defend itself against a nuclear threat.

And if that message, too, is not forthcoming? Faced with an imminent existential dilemma, Israel will probably opt for preemptive self-defense, even if that means risking its special relationship with America—a different kind of existential threat.”

This is getting pretty creepy.

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Comments (10)

Would like some options

I'm trying to figure the way out here and I'd love to hear some solutions from the anti-war folks. If a) Iran is absolutely not going to be dissuaded from trying to develop a nuke and b) Israel has legitimate fears that the nuke would be going their way then what happens? Could we really just sit idle and let things unfold on their own?
God knows I don't want war. The last decade has taught me a huge lesson on the limits of war. But what can we do to avoid it? Obviously we try diplomacy but what happens if Iran is convinced that we wouldn't dare back up any tough talk?

There are a lot of options

What exactly are Israel's "legitimate fears". The three or four nukes that Iran will have to the forty plus nukes that Israel has. In addition there is the American nuclear umbrella.

If Israel is so worried about nukes why not enter into a Middle East nuclear free zone. Oh wait, it wants the capability to destroy anyone, but is only worried about the other country (which has never attacked another country) having the same capability.

Meanwhile how is the "peace" process under Netenyahu going? I heard he was going to build more settlements on Palestinian land ?

How Many Do They Need?

So what if Iran only has one nuke, if they use it on Israel? The ability to respond and avenge is rather cold comfort, don't you think? Israel is a rather small country. I don't know what percentage of population would be lost to a single nuke but it would be much too large. And given the rather recent memories of the Holocaust, it is understandable that they're sensitive about such things.
Your second paragraph seems divorced from reality. Israel had had little reason to trust its neighbors. They've been the target of some active wars and a near constant low level terrorism. The most recent sponsor of the terrorism has been Iran, which makes the description of never attacking seem a bit empty. Add in some of the bellicose language from Iran about what they would do with that first nuke and it seems pretty easy to understand the term 'legitimate fears'.
I understand that the settlements are provocative. I get that. But how in the world can that justify threats of nuking the Israelis?

How many does the other side need ?

If a single nuke is one too many, why not ask both sides to give up everything ? Next is someone going to tell me that the Iranians would cheat and say proliferate like some other nation in the Middle East to South Africa.

Iran had nothing to do with the Holocaust. Also even Iranians are a little sensitive to their own sovereignty. I guess a little coup in their history, sponsored by I wonder who, that put them under the brutal regime of the Shah keeps them a little paranoid. After all our dear friend the Shah, extracted his subjects nails from their fingers as a reminder of his kindness and his pro western proclivities. Ah how well such niceties fit into our distaste for terrorism and support of human rights

Actually your second para is divorced from reality. Iran has not attacked Israel. Do they have proxies. Absolutely . Now does not Israel have proxies, like those who kill Iranians. ? Did it not have them in Lebanon ? Also who started the Lebanon war ? Also is only Iran the bad actor in that area. I think not. Plenty of them are our allies, and ALL our allies have history of questionable behavior in that region.

Regarding bellicose language; Have we considered the bellicose language from our stateside politicians towards Iran and have we included similar language from Avigdor Lieberman and Netenyahu? Or is bellicosity a casus belli only when it comes from the inconvenient enemy ?

Sure a few pity words about the settlements, but gosh I guess it has no bearing on all the problems in the Middle East. Just a few million Palestinians subjugated in their own lands. I guess all our freedom and Holocaust spiel does not count when it comes to the wretched Palestinians. Absolutely they do not count while we subsidize their treatment.

Threats like bomb bomb bomb Iran are A-OK but God forgive us if the Iranians make the same statements.

An "imminent existential dilemma"?

That's how the Likkudniks portray it. Do even they have the temerity to make a "first strike" against a neighboring country to precipitate a crisis that would force the President to choose sides and engage in yet another Middle Eastern War? I think they do.

Most my life since as long as I remember, I lived in this country which under an "existential threat" of destruction or domination by the Global Communist threat. Does Netanyahu think people in this country don't know what that means? I think Netanyahu does not know what "existential threat" really means. I wish that guy and his retinue of AIPAC right wing bag persons would go away and just stay in Israel where they belong.

What Obama will ask Netanyahu for on Monday

Obama wants Netanyahu to promise to give him at least 24 hours notice if Israel plans to attack the Iranian nuclear facilities. Netanyahu will say no because he can't trust the Obama administration not to tip off the Iranians, spoiling the surprise attack and costing Israelis their lives. And that's how far the American-Israeli relationship has deteriorated.

Creepy, indeed…

I believe we may have encountered a modern-day example of what George Washington was talking about when he warned against the United States’ involvement in what were referred to back in those days as “entangling alliances.”

It’s creepy on several levels, not least because – in what I’d regard as the worst-case scenario – the U.S. would, once again, be committed to military action in the Middle East against a nation that presents no direct threat to this country, has not directly attacked us, and we’d be doing this because of a Presidential order rather than a Congressional Declaration of War.

I’m well aware that political realities in Washington being what they are, no matter what course Obama might choose, it's going to be vehemently opposed by the Republican Party, even if it’s the very same course they endorsed 5 minutes previously, simply because it’s a course of action being proposed by a Democratic president, and an “uppity” black Democratic president at that – that latter point being something that drives many of those who label themselves as “conservative” into hysterics.

Beyond that, and – for some at least – even more disturbing, is that such a course of action, should it occur, would pretty much cement into place the multiple precedents of executive decree superseding Congressional declaration as the signal for hostilities to begin. My own view is that repeated instances of this over the past generation pretty conclusively demonstrate that we’ve entered some sort of “imperial” phase, and in consequence have largely abandoned the “democratic” ideals of the society, at least in terms of foreign policy.

Democracies argue and debate, and as a result, take a long time to make decisions and get things done. By definition, democracy is not efficient, and speedy action is notable primarily because it’s so rare. Our quick response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is a case in point. In contrast, Empires have a leader who simply says, “Make it so,” just like the commander of the Enterprise in Star Trek, or a CEO of a big corporation, and everyone does what they’re supposed to do to carry out the order. There’s no argument or debate. It’s much faster, more efficient, and may even be a rational response to the dramatic changes in world conditions and technology since the Constitution was written, but it’s nonetheless not at all what the founders that we all profess to revere had in mind. That’s why a Declaration of War is expressly written into the Constitution as a Congressional prerogative. When young people are going to be sent off to die, convenience and speed of decision-making may not be the most important criteria to consider.

And at the same time, there’s little evidence that Iran’s leader is a calm and rational guy. Iran has a lengthy history as a civilized society – think ancient Persia – but the guy currently in charge is reminiscent of Newt Gingrich – smart, bombastic, and much concerned with establishing Iran as a regional powerhouse via, if nothing else will do, a display of national testosterone. Should the Israelis wait until a mushroom cloud rises over Tel Aviv before they take action? That, too, seems a “creepy” response, to say the least.

Meanwhile, the world’s lone superpower, teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and a dramatic fall from superpowerdom, desperately trying to extricate itself from not just one, but a pair of failed military enterprises in the Middle East, now finds itself pledging to “have the back” of a tiny Middle Eastern nation surrounded by enemies that has been a staunch ally over the past half-century – over its entire existence, really – and that is, itself, not averse to displays of national testosterone. It’s not a reassuring scenario, and Israel has already demonstrated in the past (in 1981, against Iraq) that it’s willing to make a preemptive strike against what it believes is a nuclear threat.

This is why “entangling alliances” were regarded as things to be avoided when our founding documents were written…

Nuclear threat

Under no circumstance should America be pulled into a war to protect Israel based on any Israeli aggression toward Iran. The fact that Israel had had nukes is an "open secret" that has always made me exteremely nervous (as do all nukes held by current governments). America's position in the middle east, based as it is primarily on desires for oil resource control, has always been hypocritical, and patently disgusting. It's obvious that arabs and israelis are more alike than different anyway. So grow a few everyone and let it go and get back to the joy of living that is so possible, but is ever rejected. Personally, I think nations (and the corporate interests operating in them) are actually more terrified by genuine peace than they are of bloody war. War is familiar and profitable. Status quo. O.K. Peace, on the other hand, i. e. relationships on a world scale devoid of military conflict and competition, is totally foreign territory. Hence terrifying. And look how neurotic many of the nations leaders really are, and how beliefs are considered so sacred. Things are a real mess, and we're not getting any wiser.

This is the dilemma you face when your leader has no credibilty

Any president who has to say "I don't bluff" has a credibility problem with his adversaries because it's in response to the charge someone obviously has made that Obama's threats are meaningless. George Bush was never accused of bluffing.

But his credibility problem is also with our allies. Obama would like advanced notice of the Israeli attack but Bibi's not going to give it to him because they don't trust him with that information. They don't put it past Obama to share the attack details with Iran.

Obama's treatment of the truth as a distant relative has come back to hurt him and ultimately, will hurt us as we get drawn into war # 3 in the middle east.

Leaders' credibility

Mr. Tester’s disconnection from reality continues, and in spades.

We might argue over whether “I don’t bluff” is intended for the government of Iran or for domestic consumption, but Mr. Tester’s 2nd paragraph is completely delusional, and I think a pretty good case could be made, and rather quickly, that when it comes to lying to the public, George Bush has it all over the current occupant of the Oval Office.

As a matter of curiosity, one also wonders what the sources might be for the inside information that Mr. Tester professes to have. His connections with those in power in Israel must be truly special if he's able to state with authority that the Israeli government suspects the President would share their state secrets with Iran. My own suspicion is that Mr. Tester makes this stuff up as he goes along…