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The Bibi Two-Step

The Israeli prime minister has become quite adept at dancing away from political trouble over the settlements and Iran.

by
Moshe Dann

Bio

June 28, 2009 - 12:14 am

The Iranian nuclear issue is moot.  It became moot when George W.  Bush left the White House.

Nothing will prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power -– especially not President Obama. It’s doubtful that Israel would risk a pre-emptive attack and its aftermath.

Israeli politicians, military egos, and media pundits, however, have created a hysterical state of mind which is now being used to garner support for destroying more Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. This provides Prime Minister Netanyahu with a perfect excuse; dealing with Iran is more important than West Bank outposts.

Sound logical? Most PR does. But it presents a totally false symmetry. What does Iran have to do with settlements?

The idea that evacuating Jews will bring Arabs into a coalition against Iran and promote regional strategic cooperation is delusional. With Iran in full support of Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda in Egypt, Sudan, Somalia and other Muslim countries, who cares about a few Jews living on hilltops?

Obama has painted himself into a corner. Unwilling to take on Iran militarily, he has turned against the closest and most vulnerable target, Israel. And Netanyahu -– as in previous confrontations over policy differences –- may be wobbling, yet again.

Remember his excuses for signing the Wye Agreement in 1998, which turned over major cities and vast tracts of land to the PA? “Now they will be accountable,” he burbled.

He went along with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s “disengagement” from Gaza because, he said, his role as finance minister was too important to leave. He failed to lead Israelis fed up with corruption and ineptitude after Israel’s botched action against Hezbollah in Lebanon. It could be another set-up, or a new dance step.

Iran needs the American bogeyman to unite; America needs the threat from Iran to whip Israel into major security surrender; and Netanyahu needs both to build a strong coalition and stay in power. He’s been through all of this before; he won’t make the same mistakes.

Whether or not Iran has the capability of launching a nuclear-tipped missile from its territory is unclear. Thanks to Pakistan and North Korea, Iran may have acquired the technology for a smaller nuclear devise mounted on ballistic missiles that could be launched by small groups anywhere, most likely via Hezbollah and Hamas proxies.

The obvious advantage of Iran’s use of a proxy is that it’s harder to trace its origins, thereby offering Iran protection from retaliation, at least for a while, if at all.

This situation severely limits Israel’s options, primarily its reliance on anti-missile defense. Chances are good that an incoming missile will be intercepted, which would then entitle a response with full force.

Ironically, once it achieves nuclear capability, Iran is more identifiably dangerous, and therefore more limited. The more threatening Iran becomes, the higher the stakes, the more intense a confrontation and the likelihood of a serious response. This offers the only real chance to prevent Iran from attacking.

The United States, Britain and France (at least) must warn Iran that launching a missile — any missile (since it can be assumed to be a WMD) –- would result in the total annihilation of Iran by a combined international force. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s refusal to make this clear weakens any opposition and offers no incentives for Iran to change course.

The warning to Iran must be clear, unequivocal, and substantive, obligating the “great powers,” including NATO, to become part of a control mechanism, and one that will act decisively. There can be no question about the ramifications of a first-strike launch using WMD.

The advantage of such a system is that it virtually locks in all participants and everyone knows the rules. Iran’s success up to now has been due to the lack of rules, clear red lines, and meaningful consequences. The responsibility for prudence and self-preservation as well as the system itself, therefore, is incumbent on every player. And once armed, there is no withdrawal.

Without doubt, Iran, like Pakistan and North Korea, will try to distribute and build facilities for WMD, and they may be initially successful, as occurred recently when a nuclear facility was being built in Syria. It would appear, however, that these initiatives could be readily eliminated.

Countries which have WMD and threaten others should be ostracized. This could easily become part of the UN Charter and other international bodies. In this way, Iran acquiring nuclear weapons could be a blessing in disguise, if it prompts a new way of thinking about the problem and how to contain it. As more nations acquire nuclear weapons they can learn that it’s also a responsibility.

This, however, has nothing to do with Jews, settlements, elephants, or camels.

And if you think Obama knows the dance floor, Bibi can show him a trick or two.

The author, a former assistant professor of history, is a writer and journalist living in Jerusalem.
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