Republican candidate Mitt Romney says that Barack Obama threw Israel under the bus. But Romney is wrong. Obama threw Obama under the bus. Why? Because in 2009, the newly elected U.S. president faced a clear challenge: to stop Iran's nuclear program without attacking Iran.
On one hand, Obama couldn't allow himself to let Iran go nuclear. A nuclear Iran would mean a nuclear Middle East, a nuclear world and international chaos. On the other hand, Obama couldn't allow himself to go to war with Iran. Due to his own worldview, as well as the traumas of Afghanistan and Iraq, an aggressive confrontation with the Shi'ite powerhouse simply wasn't in the cards.
Therefore, from his very first months in the White House, Obama should have started fighting the Iranian cancer with chemotherapy: a tight diplomatic and economic noose and paralyzing sanctions. But Obama didn't do this. He tried to cure the cancer with a homeopathic treatment that he termed dialogue. He also recommended yoga classes, natural foods and reciting Psalms.
Even when the president finally changed his approach, he still acted with great caution and extreme slowness. Since he didn't want oil pices to climb before the 2012 elections, he avoided embarking on a full-scale nonmilitary conflict with Iran. The results of this failure were revealed in the MRI scans presented by the International Atomic Energy Agency last week: The malignant tumor of Iran's nuclear program has metastasized, sending offshoots in every direction.
Now, it seems that chemotherapy will no longer be enough. Today, the choice facing the United States is exactly the choice it was supposed to have avoided. Either bomb Iran, or Iran will have the bomb. Either give in completely to the cancer, or treat the cancer with a violent, risky operation that will certainly entail bloodshed.
Benjamin Netanyahu also thinks Obama threw him under the bus. Why? Because in 2009, the newly elected Israeli prime minister faced a clear challenge: to stop Iran's nuclear program via close cooperation with the United States.
On one hand, Netanyahu understood the Iranian challenge better than any other statesman in the world. On the other hand, Netanyahu knows America better than any other Israeli leader. Therefore, Netanyahu was the right man in the right place at the right time. He could have moved mountains to forge a close American-Israeli alliance against Iran.
But Netanyahu has two weaknesses: suspicion and parsimony. His suspicious nature means that instead of building relations of trust with partners, he finds himself again and again at loggerheads with enemies. His parsimony means that he is incapable of paying out even small sums to purchase vital assets. He doesn't know how to sacrifice his pawns to protect his king.
Therefore, Netanyahu wouldn't pay with the settlements to stop Iran's centrifuges. Therefore, he didn't build international legitimacy for Israel. The prime minister didn't find a way to the U.S. president's heart; instead, he made himself hated by him. Because of Netanyahu, it's not Iran that is now perceived as a threat to world peace, but Israel. Because of him, at this moment of unparalleled importance, American-Israeli relations are at an all-time low.
Obama and Netanyahu have very little in common. Obama is the president of a North American superpower; Netanyahu is prime minister of a small Middle Eastern country. Obama is a liberal who wants to turn America into France; Netanyahu is a conservative who dreams of turning Israel into America. Nevertheless, Obama and Netanyahu are currently facing a shared failure. If they don't come to their senses soon, they will go down in history as the men who quarreled like children instead of working together against a common danger.
In the end, they are both liable to be run over by the same bus.
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