Israel should heed the friendly warning it received from the Obama administration, which opposes a preemptive Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.
The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, warned in Tel Aviv on Sunday of the unexpected consequences of an Israeli attack on Iran, just as he did during the days of the Bush administration. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Qatar that Iran's neighbors, who are worried about its nuclear plans, must rely on the American defense umbrella. And next week, Vice President Joseph Biden will visit Israel to pass on a similar message.
Both Israeli and Iranian leaders have escalated the threats they have been exchanging over the past few weeks. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at Auschwitz about a new Amalek. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad that if Israel goes to war, "we need to put an end to the Zionist regime once and for all." And last week, on the anniversary of the Iranian revolution, Ahmadinejad announced that Iran will enrich uranium to 20 percent and declared that his country is capable of building an atomic bomb.
In these circumstances, the U.S. administration was right to send its senior officials to the Middle East in an attempt to calm both Israel and the Arab nations who are afraid of the Iranian nuclear threat.
U.S. President Barack Obama, after failing in his attempts at dialogue with Iran's leaders, has toughened his stance and is now trying to recruit international support for harsher sanctions against Iran than were imposed in the past.
The likelihood that the American move will succeed is unclear, but Israel is required to give Obama a chance, for one simple reason: Israel will need full American support for any actions it may decide to take against the Iranian threat. If Israel goes to war, it will need intelligence help, prior warning, military equipment and diplomatic support from the United States.
No other country would or could aid Israel, and uncoordinated Israeli action would justifiably arouse U.S. anger, since it would endanger America's vital interests in the region.
Thus, despite all the anger and fear that Ahmadinejad's threats raise in Israel, for now, Israel should respond quietly and let Obama lead the effort to stop the Iranian nukes. Netanyahu has no better option.
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