The Jerusalem Post is reporting that Israeli officials are saying the main purpose of Barack Obama’s visit to Israel in the spring is to talk Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu out of attacking Iran.
The main purpose of US President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel in the spring is to warn Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu against attacking Iran, unnamed officials told Army Radio on Sunday.
According to the officials, the urgency of the trip is because in his speech to the United Nations in September, Netanyahu had flagged the spring of 2013 as a significant time in the context of the Iranian nuclear threat.
Therefore, they said, Obama is concerned that the prime minister will decide to attack Iran now when he is backed by a new government and can establish a new security cabinet, without Dan Meridor and Benny Begin, two Likud MKs and alleged opponents of such a strike who lost their Knesset seats in the recent elections.
The officials told Army Radio that the US president subsequently decided to transmit a direct message to Netanyahu: “Don’t attack Iran, let me handle matters with the Iranians according to my understanding, and if necessary I will take action, we have capabilities that you do not.”
In recent weeks, there has been a slight change in rhetoric coming out of Tehran. Just yesterday, President Ahmadinejad said that he would consider direct talks with the United States if the west would stop putting “pressure” on Iran — code for lifting the sanctions.
And Obama has just the threesome to do that. Kerry, Hagel, and Brennan all support lifting at least some of the sanctions on Iran and all favor direct talks with the Iranians. The president’s major purpose in meeting with Netanyahu is to steer the Israeli prime minister away from taking any action that would interfere with his grand plan: an historic reconciliation with Iran, including a normalization of relations.
You might recall that it has been US policy for a decade that we would not engage in direct talks with Iran until they halted their uranium enrichment program. That policy may be dumped as there appears to be a serious effort to get the Iranians to the negotiating table.
Aside from a treaty that would eliminate nuclear weapons, there is probably no bigger foreign policy “get” for Obama than a treaty with Iran. It would certainly cement his place in history as a “peacemaker.” While it unlikely the Iranians would give an inch on enrichment, there is a sizable segment of the developing world that would applaud an agreement that allowed the Iranians to continue to enrich uranium under IAEA protocols. Would Obama go that far? His base has already been making the argument that Iran should be treated like any other nation who wants to develop nuclear power.
But our history of dealing with the Iranians shows that even if he reaches an agreement, the deal is likely to blow up in his face at the last minute. Meanwhile, Israel will have been effectively sidelined while the Iranians continue to work toward building a nuclear weapon.
So much for having Israel’s back.