What is the role of the Israeli government in American political life? Well, apparently we must defer to Netanyahu. “To Attack of Not to Attack” is by Zaki Shalom, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, Tel Aviv University, writing in a journal of the French Institute for International Relations. Breathtaking. Boldface is mine:
We must take into account that the Prime Minister is raising the bar for threats toward Iran, inter alia, because he recognizes that the current US administration is seeking to prevent an Israeli action before the elections at any price. It would probably be no exaggeration to say that the prime minister is going around with the feeling that the political future of President Obama is to some extent, perhaps even a large extent, in the Prime Minister’s hands. An Israeli action at the present time would almost certainly expose the president to serious criticism for his fecklessness, which forced Israel, a close ally of the United States, to act alone. Various segments in the US administration, especially the Congress, will make demands to support Israel.
All this, when the consequences of an Israeli action for the stagnant US economy are liable to be serious. Under these circumstances, it is not inconceivable that the Prime Minister believes that currently, he can “squeeze” from the president far-reaching commitments in Israel’s favor in exchange for Israeli restraint on Iran. This compensation will presumably be mainly in the areas of defense and the economy. Israel, the prime minister can argue, is prepared to take a strategic risk on the Iranian issue, if it knows that the US administration will support it and will be prepared to give it aid that under normal circumstances, it would not be prepared to give…
The Prime Minister can assume that an Israeli attack prior to the November 2012 elections will make it very difficult for the Obama administration to criticize Israel openly. He can assume with near certainty that as soon as the attack begins, members of Congress, the media, Jewish leaders, and Republican Party leaders will issue statements supporting Israel and even demand that the administration back Israel and defend it. The Obama administration cannot ignore such expressions of support in the period leading up to the elections.
Bruce Wolman, who tipped me off to this article, adds:
It’s a win-win for Netanyahu. If he is not serious about attacking Iran, he still gets the max from the USA with his blackmailing. If he is serious, he puts Obama in a box such that he has to rescue the IDF. Netanyahu doesn’t even have to decide between the two until the day of the election. He can just keep us all guessing. (However, I can’t believe our $300B intelligence services don’t know whether Israel is serious or not.)
I disagree that Obama has no choice. He could take on Netanyahu and AIPAC and win. Why? The military has his back on this one. But Obama is not such a risk taker. He is a campaign machine, nothing more. If he has an ideology, it is moderate Republican economic values. If he faced Netanyahu head on, a lot of non-Jewish Americans would support him. There is war fatigue in this country and in the military. But the longer he waits, the more trapped Netanyahu has him.
If Obama had led on this issue, he could have used it to his political advantage. Obama could easily parry the statements of Republican leaders, and he is not going to get the Christian Zionists to vote for him anyhow. Even many Jews do not want us to go to war with Iran. But Obama won’t take this risk, because he doesn’t want to upset his Jewish donors.
Netanyahu traps him with each passing day because the U.S. administration keeps validating Israel’s talking points in an effort to appease the Israeli government. That makes it harder for Obama to reverse the rhetoric and not look opportunistic.