Do not envy Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He has to decide what to do about Iran. If he does nothing, Israel could get nuked. If he attacks, all Hell breaks out: Iran will fire missiles at Israel; Hizbullah and Hamas would declare Holy War; and Syria (or Hizbullah) could attack with chemical weapons. A war could cost Israel more than 167 billion shekel in direct cost and damages over five years, according to one estimate. Israel’s economy will suffer. The center of Israel, where 70 per cent of the population resides, could turn into a war zone, with thousands dead or wounded.
Those who attack Israel, meanwhile, could suffer an apocalypse. One report recently described Israel as capable of pounding Syria and Lebanon back to pre-history. Iran has already put the West on notice that, if Israel attacks, Iran will take its revenge against the West. In a war against Israel, Syria and Lebanon might not be the only nations to return to the Stone Age.
How do Western powers handle this potential destruction? By pressuring Israel.
Prime Minister Netanyahu is not amused.
He has good reason to be miffed. After Netanyahu made it clear to US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta that Israel has the right to protect itself, Britain and Germany made it equally clear that if Israel attacked Iran, they would not support Israel. Then, perhaps to make sure that Netanyahu got the West’s message, the highest ranking military officer in the US, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, echoed the British-German threat when he said that if Israel attacked, the US would also not assist Israel. According to a recent news analysis, Mr Netanyahu was so ‘impressed’ by the British and German ‘warnings’ that he changed his strategy. Instead of continuing an aggressive stance towards Iran, he backed off; he demanded only that the West set deadlines and ‘redlines’ for Iran, to pressure Iran.
But his effort to lower the heat had no effect. If anything, it might have suggested that Israel’s leadership would fold under pressure. Less than two weeks after reportedly making his change, Netanyahu supposedly ‘blew up’ in a meeting with the US Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro (Mr Shapiro denies this). Mr Netanyahu was angered by what he termed, ‘US stalling’ over Iran, and by continuing American pressure on Israel, not Iran.
He had asked for deadlines. He’s gotten nothing but threats--against Israel.
Now, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has formalized the US position on Israel’s call for deadlines. She announced (September 11, 2012), ‘we’re not setting deadlines,’ thereby capping a fortnight of messages that told Israel that the West was interested in supporting neither a military option or deadlines, Israel’s two most important strategic choices in its battle to stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Likud MK Danny Danon called Mrs Clinton’s remarks, ‘a slap in Israel’s face.’
The day Clinton’s remarks were published, former Israeli Ambassador to the US, Zalman Shoval, offered the observation, ‘We need to get used to the fact that, as usual, we are alone.’
But we are not just alone. What has happened is not simply, ‘usual’. The remarks by Mrs Clinton and US General Dempsey have changed Israel’s relationship with its most important ally: if Mr. Netanyahu wanted the West to draw a line in the sand, that’s exactly what he’s gotten—a line in the sand over which Israel cannot step. President Obama, supposedly so careful to avoid disturbing American Jewish support for his re-election, has apparently pushed aside that concern to clarify his attitude towards Israel, and that clarification is decidedly unfriendly: Israel cannot attack; the West will neither attack Iran nor install deadlines to help Israel; Iran can continue to enrich uranium because only ‘negotiations’ are required and Israel has been put on notice that it must do nothing or suffer the consequences.
These are not gestures of an ally. They are the hallmarks of arrogant disregard for an ally. Clearly, Israel can attack. But the West’s hostility creates for Israel a nightmare scenario: if she attacks she could be destroyed—because allies may refuse to assist her--and if she waits she could also be destroyed.
Fortunately, this movie has not yet ended. Yes, as the Jewish New Year approaches, the heroine is being tied to the proverbial railroad track. The villain is Iran. But America ties the ropes, with the British and Germans standing nearby cheering the Americans on while hissing at the heroine. To those who know their Tanach (our Jewish Bible) and its commentaries, this sounds a lot like the descendants of Edom preparing the dogs of war while Persia and Yishmael strain to strike the first blow against Zion.
This is going to be some movie: the enemies of Zion turn against Zion just as the G-d of Israel prepares to judge the world.
Happy New Year