Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Did Bibi Netanyahu Fold Under Pressure?
Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu has come under increasing criticism in some quarters as it appears that after his 'red lines' speech at the UN, he may have decided against a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities before America goes to the polls.
I say 'appears', because it's still October,but let's assume that Israel has decided to forgo a strike against Iran for now and his critics have it right.Has Netanyahu folded under pressure?
I'm not sure if 'folded' is the right word.
As you know, from its inception the Obama Administration has been the most hostile to Israel of any U.S administration since this president took office. In this president's own words, he sought to align America with the Muslim world by "creating daylight" between America and Israel. This attitude has continued for four year, although in a covert, behind the scenes way lately because of the U.S. elections.
There has been tremendous pressure placed on Israel by the Administration not to strike at Iran. Obama all but told Iran that if Israel hit them, Israel would be on its own, the mantra of what a 'catastrophe' an Israeli strike would be has been repeated ad infinitum by the usual suspects like ex-SecDef Robert Gates, and on a couple of occasions, covert intel has even been leaked by the Obama Administration in an effort to 'keep Israel in line' and prevent an Israeli strike.Israel faced the same sort of pressure from the Bush Administration prior to taking out Syria's clandestine nuclear program.
The Obama Administration's pressure even affected Israeli domestic political climate. As in America, the Israeli press generally leans left, and a number of former members of Israel's defense and intel establishment,many of them associated with the opposition parties of Labor and Kadima were trotted out to weigh in agreeing with the Obama Administration's line. Even Israel's president,Labor's Shimon Peres did his bit, and reportedly there was even dissension in Netanyahu's cabinet.
Netanyahu is, among other things, primarily a pragmatist.
Israel's intel on Iran is much stronger than America's. Faced with mixed support on Iran as well as problems within his coalition on budget cuts and reforms needed to keep the Israeli economy thriving, he might very well have decided that Israel still has time vis a vis Iran and decided to concentrate on shoring up his coalition by going to early elections to deal with the problem later.
There's also the alight possibility Netanyahu was promised a quid pro quo by the Obama Administration for waiting. This sort of thing has happened before.Netanyahu was thought to have 'caved' before on releasing Palestinian tax money to Fatah. That is, until Germany, in exchange, changed its position and agreed to build and partially fund another nuclear capable Dolphin-class submarine. A possible deal for waiting on Iran might have involved enhanced funding for Iron Dome missile defense or access to America's latest generation of Bunker Busters, which would make taking out Iran's facilities much easier.
Waiting might also have involved a calculation by the PM that Governor Mitt Romney has a far better chance of winning the presidency now than previously thought, with the possibility of pulling off a strike under a far more sympathetic administration, perhaps even with U.S. assistance.
Netanyahu is also aware of the financial chaos currently afflicting Iran after years of financial mismanagement by the mullahs, and it may be that, seeing he has a window of time, he's decided to wait to see how that plays out.
All of these things,or none of them might have a bearing on what happens next. But what it's worth reminding people is that Benyamin Netanyahu is neither a coward or a fool, but a pretty savvy strategist and will have considered all these factors.