Obama: Eyes wide shut
Many believe in the U.S. president's diplomatic path. But isn’t it an elementary instinct to retain a tiny, cautious smidgen of suspicion about him, and to encourage him with statements such as 'If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone?'
Even among people opposed to the military option, there presumably lurks some suspicion that the Iranians, having misled the world for two decades, might continue to mislead it even after the new regime’s charm offensive, and thereby buy time. If so, whence come the acerbity, and even hostility, with which these circles greeted the prime minister’s speech to the United Nations?
Many people believe in U.S. President Barack Obama’s diplomatic path. But isn’t it an elementary instinct to retain a tiny, cautious smidgen of suspicion about him, and to encourage him with statements such as “If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone”? After all, in matters to do with our region, it has more than once turned out that the American president has his eyes wide shut – and not just on the Iranian issue (see, for instance, his Cairo speech).
Moreover, let’s assume that Iranian President Hassan Rohani actually deserves the credit he has been given. Even if so, he reportedly faces a powerful opposition that includes the Revolutionary Guards as well as many clerics. So wouldn’t it be desirable (tactically, only tactically) for Israel to declare aggressively that unless Iran proves it has ceased enriching uranium and producing heavy water, at least one player - the principal victim of world appeasement - will not rest and will not keep silent.
If so, what is the source of this great anger against Benjamin Netanyahu, who is brandishing (though not yet, and quite likely not ever, actually using) a stick in this stubborn and serpentine conflict? After all, there’s a chance – especially if he receives widespread backing at home – that this stick might be seen in Iran as a deterrent. And as a result, to the joy of the peace camp, it might even cause Iran to go moderate for real.
But if so, then this camp, whose positions are supposed to be guided by reason (and what is more rational than using the method of good cop Obama / bad cop Netanyahu?), has other, hidden, goals when its members describe Netanyahu’s speech as “tired, shopworn, annoying and boring.” The very lively responses from Iran suffice to prove how ridiculous these descriptions are.
Indeed, one reason why Iran went to the brink of producing a nuclear bomb over the last two years was its leaders’ assessment that Netanyahu (who was also facing a very influential opposition, which, aside from the media, included the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, the head of the Mossad and the head of the Shin Bet security service) wouldn’t attack. And if Israel weakens, then so, obviously, will the rest of the world.
Netanyahu’s assessment that Obama was tempted to give Rohani excessive credit is undoubtedly what prompted his aggressive and unequivocal message. But he, too, has been forced to swallow a bit of the new course the American president has charted and to retreat from the four-point red line he set last year.
On Tuesday, he didn’t demand military action from the nations of the world; he made do with a demand that they not lift the sanctions. Only from himself – that is, from us – did he demand more. And rightly so. But only if he and his government find the courage to overcome the internal and external pressures (in that order) and dare to make Iran believe that they will fearlessly implement the speech’s operative element – “If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone” – will there be no need to implement it.
Discomfort was also voiced in Israel over the one original element of his speech, the historical, declarative one. The contents of this element, it turns out, also raised the ire of his critics. But here, too, Netanyahu said exactly what he should have said.
Throughout the world, especially in the United States – and particulary in times of crisis – it’s customary to use lofty language, to recall historic connections, to quote the Bible and the sayings of great leaders. And overseas, his words were understood to have a different meaning than the one given them by the Israeli media. The world understood that “And I will plant them upon their soil never to be uprooted again” has every bit as much operative significance as “If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone.”