Roger L. Simon

Mr. Netanyahu's Dilemma


Despite the intense efforts of John Kerry, I doubt very much that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is focused, like a laser or otherwise, on the umpity-ump peace talks with the Palestinians. If past performance is any indication, the Palestinians aren’t much interested in a two-state solution anyway. And, miraculously, if they are this time, let’s hear the details.

But given Netanyahu’s responsibilities and the realities of the world, his concentration must be on Syria — and, most especially, through that, Iran.

Toward that end, he has a serious problem — and that is the president of the United States.

Mr. Obama has promised the prime minister — who knows how many times — that he (Obama) will make sure that Iran does not obtain nuclear weapons.

Unfortunately, the president also, the world well knows, warned the combatants in the Syrian civil war that the employment of chemical weapons was a “red line” he wouldn’t allow to be crossed.

He fudged on that one, mumbling the words “a whole bunch” or some such. But whatever his equivocation, it is long since erased by the recent mass murder in the Damascus suburb of roughly a thousand people, including many children. That carnage clearly passes the “whole bunch” test.

At this point, too, many nations have already concluded that the gassing was done by the Assad regime. (Vogue magazine take note.)

Nevertheless, Obama has yet to act. He is allegedly trying to build consensus (remember that?) at the United Nations — the “progressive” institution that gave us Oil-for-Food, Iran as head of its human rights commission, etc.

In fact, in the face of the Nazi-like behavior of the Assad regime, Obama is, as is his wont, calling in “absent.” The lede from the normally administration-friendly Reuters reads:

President Barack Obama called the apparent gassing of hundreds of Syrian civilians a “big event of grave concern” but stressed on Friday he was in no rush to embroil Americans in a costly new war.

One wonders how “grave” his concern would have to be for Obama to act. Would he, unlike Franklin Roosevelt, have bombed the train tracks to Auschwitz? It’s easy to be skeptical.

This is the kind of question Benjamin Netanyahu must be asking himself and, if Obama continues in the same waffling direction, the Israeli prime minister has his answer.

Ironically, Syria should have made everything obvious to Netanyahu, if it wasn’t already. Obama is not a man to be trusted.

So what does this mean? Is it good news for the mullahs?

I think not. With the Arab Islamic world in a state somewhere between nervous breakdown and cataclysm, everywhere behaving like refugees from the ninth century, Israel has, more than ever, a license to act by itself in its own defense.

The only people who might complain (other than the obvious lip service from secretly relieved Arab nations) are Obama himself and his Islamofascist cohort the nauseating Recep Erdogan. And Obama is not exactly Mr. Popular at this moment.

This too must not be lost on Netanyahu and his cabinet. The more complex question they have to evaluate is — is it worth it? Egypt, Syria, and now Lebanon are imploding by themselves. Might not the same thing happen to Iran?

It’s possible. Events are moving quickly. If Assad’s regime collapses, his masters in Tehran may follow.

But it’s unlikely there would be a regime change in Iran in time to interdict its nuclear program. Indeed, it’s unclear that a regime change would even do that. Nationalistic impulses might prevail.

Meanwhile, allowing the mullahs to have nuclear weapons is the equivalent of giving a loaded gun to a two year old. It’s not a gamble anybody should take.

Although some on the right are impatient with Netanyahu for not acting already, I am not one of them. Timing is everything — and the time wasn’t right.

It is now, however. The Syrian use of chemical weapons has made that even clearer. And waiting for — or believing in — Obama is absurd.