Popular democracy and a will for peace weigh heavily in the relations between the leaders of Israel and the United States. As it happens, Barack Obama, the new U.S. president, is a very popular leader whose appeal extends beyond U.S. borders — even to Israel. And the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, is the head of a fragile coalition where he must pay lip service to the cause of promoting a secure and just peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Netanyahu has opposed a two-state solution in the Middle East and when he took office this spring said a Palestinian solution was secondary to his focus on Iran. “The biggest danger to humanity, and to our state Israel, stems from the possibility that a radical regime will get nuclear weapons, or a nuclear weapon will be armed by a radical regime.”
Yesterday, President Obama set the order of business squarely with a resumption of Palestinian talks. The goal, Obama said, is a separate Palestinian state.
Netanyahu may not like it, but he may not have a choice. Obama has chosen the path of diplomacy, reaching out to Iran, and waiting for the result of elections in that country next month before taking his additional steps toward dialogue.
Since Netanyahu took power in March, speculation has centered on whether and when he might set a deadline and use Israeli air strikes in an attempt to cripple Iran’s nuclear capacity. There are precedents — Israel bombed Syrian nuclear facilities in 2007 and Iraq’s Osiris nuclear facility in 1981.
Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported that top U.S. officials warned Netanyahu before his visit to Washington “that Israel not surprise the U.S. with an Israeli military operation against Iran.”
It’s not difficult to imagine what would be happening now if a Republican president were in the White House and if Netanyahu had a stronger hold on Israel’s Knesset. The policy is clearly spelled out in a guest opinion column in the Washington Post.
John P. Hannah, who was former Vice President Dick Cheney’s national security adviser, clearly sides with Netanyahu. “Successful denuclearization of hostile states is most likely to occur as a result of regime change, coercive diplomacy or military action, not U.S. pledges of mutual respect.”
Regime change was the order of the day for Hannah in the run up to the Iraq War. He and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby were key in gathering the thin and fake information on Iraq’s non-existent nuclear program prior to the war.
Cheney and Hannah argue that the United States and the world were safer under the neoconservative policy that held sway during the Bush administration — strongly aligned with Netanyahu and his allies in Israel. At the same time, he implies that U.S. policy in the Middle East under Bush was successful.
He writes: “…given the history of tyrannical Middle Eastern regimes seeking nuclear arms, we must also acknowledge that the Obama strategy reflects the triumph of hope over experience.”
– Peter Eisner