Everybody Wants a Piece of Bibi

It's beginning to look like the days of the Oslo process, and its subsequent decline. No doubt, we will soon learn about messengers from Francois Hollande, secret emissaries from Moscow and a host of minor world-leaders who are eager for a piece of the action.

Anshel Pfeffer
Anshel Pfeffer
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Anshel Pfeffer
Anshel Pfeffer

Benjamin Netanyahu is about to discover that success has many fathers (and at least one mother), and that the received wisdom in the international community is that he has just been forced back from the brink of war in a resounding triumph of diplomatic pressure.

That is the reason we have learned this week that Britain's MI6 intelligence service head, Sir John Sawers, apparently visited Israel a couple of weeks ago to urge Netanyahu not to strike Iran, and last week we were informed of a call Bibi received from German Chancellor Angela Merkel with exactly the same message. No doubt, we will soon learn about messengers from French President Francois Hollande, secret emissaries from Moscow and Beijing and a host of minor world-leaders who are eager for a piece of the action.

It is beginning to look like the heydays of the Oslo process, and its subsequent decline. You couldn't walk through Jerusalem without being run over by a motorcade of the latest foreign minister "in the region," coming to encourage the process. Talks with the Palestinians are currently a distant memory, but there is still scope for aspiring diplomats to make their mark. Is this working in Netanyahu's and Israel's favor?

Even the prime minister's detractors have been forced to admit that his relentless focus on Iran and barely veiled threats to launch an attack succeeded in pushing the Palestinian issue off the agenda and in reducing international pressure to freeze settlement activity. On the other hand, Netanyahu's overt policy of mentioning Iran at every turn of the way has also focused the world's attention on Israel and not necessarily in a favorable way. This is the opposite of what was once called the "Sharon Doctrine." The former prime minister very rarely spoke of the Iranian threat in public, maintaining that "Iran is the world's problem." Some of Netanyahu's most vocal critics in Israel, chief among them former head of the Mossad Meir Dagan, are still staunch supporters of the Sharon Doctrine, convinced that Israel could have achieved much more by pursuing a quiet and clandestine policy against Iran.

Netanyahu and his supporters argue that only the vigorous, public campaign has forced the international community to impose stiff sanctions on Iran and that the threat to Israel is too great for its leaders to be concerned with their international popularity. Better the world believes Israel is about to attack – without that they would remain complacent.

For now, it seems that Netanyahu is prevailing. The EU is about to discuss more sanctions and the U.S. is building up its forces in the Persian Gulf. Meanwhile, if the media and other world leaders want to portray him as a warmonger, so be it, he's used to it. But he is taking a gamble.

Much more diplomatic efforts are currently being expended at pressuring Netanyahu not to attack than are being directed at the source of the trouble, the Iranian regime and its nuclear designs. Unfairly, Netanyahu is not being portrayed as the leader of a nation under mortal threat, but as a threat to global peace and stability. It's not just PR, there is a potentially greater risk just around the corner.

Hilary Clinton is not planning to serve another term at the State Department and has no need of being reelected. That's why she could have been so blunt interviewing on Sunday, when she rejected Netanyahu's demand that the Administration draw "red-lines" for Iran.

Now that the administration's handling of Iran has become an elections issue with Netanyahu and Mitt Romney firmly on one side, how an encumbered Obama would act, if he wins the election, is anyone's guess.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Credit: Reuters



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