The Israeli and U.S. governments agree that Iran's striving for nuclear weapons is dangerous for Israel, the region and the world. Everyone understands what a nuclear bomb might do in the hands of an extremist Muslim regime aspiring to regional hegemony.
U.S. President Barack Obama, who has placed nuclear disarmament at the top of his foreign-policy platform, needs no introductory course on the subject. Everyone remembers Israel's resolute response when suspicions arose that hostile regimes were developing such weapons - Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007. No one doubts that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu means it when he says he intends to save Israel from an Iranian nuclear bomb.
No component of this equation changed after the prime minister's visit to Washington. Without knowing whether secret understandings were reached, the visit can only be defined as a failure. Netanyahu sought to lay the groundwork for a military operation against Iran; preferably an American operation, but alternatively an Israeli one. From that perspective, he returns from Washington empty-handed, and his government's policy (which does not necessarily conform to Israeli interests ) is in worse shape than when he left.
The tactical differences between Obama and Netanyahu are obvious, irreconcilable, and in this case, when the goals are shared but the conditions and means are in dispute, tactics lead to strategy. Netanyahu wants an attack now, Obama opposes military action before the presidential elections in eight months, and Obama is the one who decides.
Israel's right to defend itself is a matter of consensus. But whether Israel is sovereign in its decision on when and how to use its American weapons and entangle its most important friend - that's another question.
The intelligence assessment in both countries is that Iran will not have nuclear weapons before the November elections. Under these circumstances, Netanyahu's pressure on Obama to approve an operation before then is not only useless, it's perceived as an outside attempt to take advantage of U.S. politics. Netanyahu should let up lest the Israeli-Iranian conflict become an Israeli-American one.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now