Israeli Sharpens Call for United States to Set Iran Trigger

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel inserted himself into the most contentious foreign policy issue of the American presidential campaign on Tuesday, criticizing the Obama administration for refusing to set clear “red lines” on Iran’s nuclear progress that would prompt the United States to undertake a military strike. As a result, he said, the administration has no “moral right” to restrain Israel from taking military action of its own. Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu’s unusually harsh public comments about Israel’s most important ally, which closely track what he has reportedly said in vivid terms to American officials visiting Jerusalem, laid bare the tension between him and Obama over how to handle Iran. They also suggested he is willing to use the pressure of the presidential election to try to force Mr. Obama to commit to attack Iran under certain conditions. He appeared to be responding to a weekend statement by Secretary of State Clinton that the United States was “not setting deadlines” beyond which it would turn to a military solution. Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking at a news conference in Jerusalem, said, “Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel”. In another sign of tensions, the Israeli Embassy in Washington said late Tuesday that Obama administration had declined a request from Mr. Netanyahu’s office for a meeting with Mr. Obama when the Israeli leader attends the United Nations General Assembly this month. The Obama administration said the decision was due to a scheduling problem and had been conveyed to Israel long ago. On Tuesday night, Mr. Obama called Mr. Netanyahu to try to calm the situation. The two talked for a full hour, hashing through the Iran confrontation and their misunderstandings. “President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu reaffirmed they are united in their determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and agreed to continue their close consultations going forward,” the White House said in a statement after the phone call. White House also tried to tamp down controversy over the request for a meeting, saying that after a possible New York encounter was ruled out, Netanyahu did not request a meeting in Washington. “Contrary to reports in the press, there was never a request for Prime Minister Netanyahu to meet with President Obama in Washington, nor was a request for a meeting ever denied,” the statement said. United States says it has no evidence that Iranian leaders have made final decision to build a bomb. However, International Atomic Energy Agency’s latest report says the country has amassed a stockpile of low- and medium-enriched uranium that, with further enrichment, could fuel as many as six nuclear weapons. United States concluded several years ago Iran had suspended its nuclear weapons development program at the end of 2003, though there has been evidence of sporadic work since. Israelis say Iran is quietly reconstituting a much larger effort. In demanding that Mr. Obama effectively issue an ultimatum to Iran, Mr. Netanyahu appeared to be making maximum use of his political leverage at a time when Mr. Obama’s Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, has sought to make an issue of what Mr. Romney says is the administration’s lack of support for Israel (…..)



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14 Responses to Israeli Sharpens Call for United States to Set Iran Trigger

  1. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Even people that dislike Netanyahu must recognize his political courage. He is the only foreign leader that can humiliate the US President publicly — as he does repeatedly with Obama– intimidate the Congress and STILL get what he want. Israel is the only (poor) country in the world that became prosperous and safe under a special relationship with the US. No matter angry comments by NYT readers, Israel always win big time. This time won’t be different.

  2. Warmonkey: Sorry to say that I agree with you. When President Obama gets re-elected, we hope he can do a major smack-down on this game player.

  3. BeadyEye: That prosperity might have something to do with the billions in annual American taxpayer dollars.

  4. Tim: Courage? Netanyahu’s “courage” stems directly from the outsized influence of AIPAC and other Jewish political organizations within the U.S. This is a relationship that is completely one-sided. Israel wouldn’t have survived its 60+ years if not for the protective arm of the U.S. and its military might.

  5. Rcint: Dream on. You can’t win them all. The percentages are against Israel if Netanyahu has his way.

  6. Tjtaraba9: Starting ANOTHER war (Iraq was theirs too) is NEVER “courageous”. America’s unholy relationship with Israel may be it’s undoing. The combination of wealthy Jewish Americans using their money to buy influence over our morally bankrupt Congress is rotting US from within. You and I have a VERY different idea of prosperity: South Africa was never prosperous no matter how much silver it had.

  7. (…..) Administration officials struggled Tuesday not to respond in kind to what they viewed as another in a series of Netanyahu provocations that could affect the U.S. presidential race. Obama’s foreign policy performance has polled significantly higher than assessments of Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee. Romney’s campaign, seeking gains on national security issues and inroads into a Jewish vote that has traditionally gone heavily Democratic, has portrayed Obama as insufficiently attuned to Israel’s concerns. “In his first TV interview as president,” Romney said in his Republican convention speech last month, Obama “said we should talk to Iran. We’re still talking, and Iran’s centrifuges are still spinning. “President Obama has thrown allies like Israel under the bus,” Romney said.

    The latest U.S.-Israel back-and-forth began Sunday when Netanyahu said in an interview with Canadian television that Iran would not stop its nuclear program “unless it sees a clear determination by the democratic countries in the world, and a clear red line.” Although Israel has called before for a “red line” for military action against Iran, it has not spelled out the criteria for it. In the interview Sunday, Netanyahu said he was discussing the issue “right now with the United States”


  8. It turns out Bibi Netanyahu and Mitt Romney have more in common than a background in management consulting and an unswerving devotion to the security of Israel. When it comes to international diplomacy, we are reminded this week, both have the subtle grace of cattle on loco weed. Netanyahu’s is the graver offense, because he knew exactly what he was doing. At a news conference in Jerusalem, he dripped scorn on the United States for its reluctance to launch a dubious preventive war against Iran – a war that even many authoritative and patriotic Israelis don’t want. Netanyahu wants America to declare a “red line,” a point at which Iran must cease its nuclear enrichment program or be showered with high explosives. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refused over the weekend to issue such a specific ultimatum. To which Netanyahu sneered: “Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.” Let’s unpack this a little. First, Clinton was right. Ultimatums should be a near-last resort in international relations. They put the adversary in a corner. They limit your flexibility. For example: The U.S. has never said what it would do if China decided to forcibly exercise its claim to Taiwan, although we are committed to Taiwan’s autonomy. Announcing our response in advance might embolden nationalists in Taiwan to push up to the limits, provoking the mainland into doing something rash. This approach is what diplomats call “constructive ambiguity,” a phrase attributed to Henry Kissinger. Skillful diplomacy is about postponing hard choices while you look for something better, in this case a negotiated deal to limit Iran’s enrichment to domestic uses. That may be why Mitt Romney, like President Obama, has avoided identifying any “red lines” in Iran; or maybe that’s just consistent with his lack of specificity on so many other issues. Second, while the U.S. has urged Israel to show restraint so that sanctions and other measures (including the possibility of further cyber-sabotage) can do their part, no one has put a “red light” in Israel’s way. Netanyahu is perfectly free to send his bombers to Iran. The only problem is that Israel probably cannot do a thorough job without U.S. participation. Whether you agree or not with the idea of using force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons (followers of this space know I do not) there is no reason to strike now. There are inspectors and monitoring devices at Iran’s enrichment facilities to alert us if Iran decides to suddenly start enriching weapons-grade fuel. The only urgency is Netanyahu’s calculation that he can use the American presidential election to pressure Obama. That leverage disappears after November 6. Netanyahu has done his country no favor. Americans are strongly opposed to a preventive war against Iran, and are likely to resent a brazen attempt to push them into fighting one at Israel’s behest.

    A new survey by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, released Monday, finds that 70 percent of Americans oppose a unilateral military strike. Moreover, if Israel bombs Iran and ignites a war, 59 percent say the U.S. should not come to Israel’s aid. Netanyahu’s crude intervention in our politics may – and should – embarrass his preferred candidate, Mitt Romney. Romney’s options now are to join his friend Netanyahu in attacking U.S. foreign policy (so much for politics stopping at the water’s edge), to distance himself from the foreign leader he has most enthusiastically embraced, or to shut up. And, if Obama is reelected, the president is unlikely to forget this exercise in manipulation by an Israeli leader he already has ample reason to mistrust (…..)

  9. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: The worst offense for Netanyahu is to be treated indifferently by Obama. His forthcoming visit to DC will test his will vis a vis Obama.

    Will Obama yield and receive the Israeli Primer Minister at the White House? Or, will Netanyahu take his case directly to the US Congress?

  10. Triad: Our senators concerns should be that of ITS CITIZENS (READ AMERICANS) and no one else’s. If Bibi wants to plead his case fine but all of us should be taking notes on their respective senator who backs Israel’s interests over those of the UNITED STATES. How dare he dictate policy to us, do us a favor Bibi, go home and if you don’t like our policies then cut ties and cease and deceist from taking any more of our tax payer dollars. you caused us nothing but tsuris.

  11. The Abandonment by Charles Krauthammer:

    (…..) “Not since its birth six decades ago has Israel been so cast adrift by its closest ally”.

  12. Perhaps it was the “fog of simulation.” But the scariest aspect of a U.S.-Iran war game staged this week was the way each side miscalculated the other’s responses — and moved toward war even as the players thought they were choosing restrained options. The Iran exercise was organized by Kenneth Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy. It included former top U.S. officials as Washington policymakers, and prominent Iranian American experts playing Tehran’s hand. I was allowed to observe, on the condition that I wouldn’t name the participants. The bottom line: The game showed how easy it was for each side to misread the other’s signals. And these players were separated by a mere corridor in a Washington think tank, rather than half a world away. Misjudgment was the essence of this game: Each side thought it was choosing limited options, but their moves were interpreted as crossing red lines. Attacks proved more deadly than expected; signals were not understood; attempts to open channels of communication were ignored; the desire to look tough compelled actions that produced results neither side wanted (…..)

  13. Shaul Mofaz, the leader of Israel’s centrist Kadima party, posed three questions this month to Benjamin Netanyahu. Speaking in the Knesset, he said: “Prime minister, tell me, who is our biggest enemy, the U.S. or Iran? Who do you want replaced, Ahmadinejad or Obama? How low are you prepared to drag relations with our closest ally?” Ouch. Netanyahu has talked himself into a corner on Iran. He has set so many “red lines” on the Iranian nuclear program nobody can remember them. He has taken to fuming publicly over President Obama’s refusal to do the same. Of late he has juggled metaphors: Iran is now “20 yards” from “touchdown.” His cry-wolf dilemma comes right out of a children’s book. It was in 1992 that he said Iran was three to five years from nuclear capacity. (One achievement of Netanyahu’s Iran obsession has been to relegate the critical question before Israel — the millions of Palestinian people on its doorstep — to somewhere between the back burner and oblivion. The best primer for Netanyahu’s thinking is these words from his coached buddy Mitt Romney: “I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say, ‘There’s just no way.”’) The mistake Netanyahu has made is to believe he can go over the head of President Obama. He has tried through Congress, where his speech last year earned 29 standing ovations. He has greeted Romney in Israel as if he were on a state visit. He has said those “who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.” He has given critical interviews on U.S. TV networks in the midst of a presidential campaign. And he hath protested far too much that he has no intention — none — of swaying the outcome. Some adjectives that come to mind are: brazen, reckless and irrational. Another is disingenuous: Obama has set a clear red line on Iran — he will not permit Iran to become a nuclear-armed state. The president is angry. Not surprising that he has no time to meet with Netanyahu during his post-Yom Kippur visit to the United States this week for the United Nations General Assembly. No Israeli prime minister should seek to circumvent the president, bet on his losing an election, and attack him publicly when the most strategically damaging course for a state as powerful as Israel is to alienate its unwavering ally, generous funder and military supplier — the United States (…..)

  14. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: As long as the US stands by Israel regardless its OWN national interest, there is no chance of a stable and prosperous relation with the Arab world. The status quo in the Middle East only benefits China. The US economy is becoming less dependent on foreign oil, particularly from the Middle East. In fact, the country is already self sufficient in natural gas and alternative energy sources. This has an important geopolitical and economic implication in the near future. No need for a strong US military presence in that volatile region of the world. Sooner or later, China will occupy the US presence in the Middle East. The Chinese economy badly needs the energy resources from that part of the world. Besides, China’s foreign policy model has an interesting feature for emerging economies. China pays a fair price for natural resources while countries get state of art technology and financial resources to develop their economies.

    In the case of the Middle East, the Chinese model has an unique advantage over the Western model. Trade and investment relations are done peacefully without the presence of the Chinese navy in the Persian Golf.


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