At Monday’s meeting between Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama the Israeli prime minister will deliver a stark warning, reports Adrian Blomfield in Jerusalem
Their relationship, almost from the outset, has been frostier than not, a mutual antipathy palpable in many of their previous encounters.
Two years ago, Barack Obama reportedly left Benjamin Netanyahu to kick his heels in a White House anteroom, a snub delivered to show the president’s irritation over Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank. In May, the Israeli prime minister struck back, publicly scolding his purse-lipped host for the borders he proposed of a future Palestinian state.
When the two men meet in Washington on Monday, Mr Obama will find his guest once more at his most combative. But this time, perhaps as never before, it is the Israeli who has the upper hand.
Exuding confidence, Mr Netanyahu effectively brings with him an ultimatum, demanding that unless the president makes a firm pledge to use US military force to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear bomb, Israelmay well take matters into its own hands within months.
The threat is not an idle one. According to sources close to the Israeli security establishment, military planners have concluded that never before has the timing for a unilateral military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities been so auspicious.
The real urgency comes from the fact that Israeli intelligence has concluded that it has only between six and nine months before Iran’s nuclear facilities are immune from a unilateral military strike.
After that, Iran enters what officials here call a “zone of immunity”, the point at which Israel would no longer be able, by itself, to prevent Tehran from becoming a nuclear power.
By then, Israel assesses, Iran will have acquired sufficient technological expertise to build a nuclear weapon. More importantly, it will be able to do so at its Fordow enrichment plant, buried so deep within a mountain that it is almost certainly beyond the range of Israel’s US-provided GBU-28 and GBU-27 “bunker busting” bombs.
It is with this deadline in mind that Mr Netanyahu comes to Washington. Mr Obama’s administration has little doubt that their visitor’s intent is serious. Leon Panetta, the US defence secretary, stated last month that there was a “strong likelihood” of Israel launching an attack between April and June this year.
Senior US officials have, unusually, warned in public that such a step would be unwise and premature, a sentiment echoed by William Hague, the Foreign Secretary.
Mr Obama is determined that beefed up US and EU sanctions targeting Iran’s central bank and energy sector be given the chance to work and is desperate to dissuade Israel from upsetting his strategy.
But to give sanctions a chance, Mr Netanyahu would effectively have to give up Israel’s ability to strike Iran and leave the country’s fate in the hands of the United States – which is why he is demanding a clear sign of commitment from the American president.
“This is the dilemma facing Israel,” the former senior military officer said. “If Iran enters a zone of immunity from Israeli attack can Israel rely on the United States to prevent Iran going nuclear?”
Among the Israeli public, there is a sense of growing sense that a confrontation with Iran is inevitable. Overheard conversations in bars and restaurants frequently turn to the subject, with a growing popular paranoia fed by the escalation in bomb shelter construction, air raid siren testing and exercises simulating civilian preparedness for rocket strikes.
Last week, Israeli newspapers fretted that the government was running short of gas masks, even though more than four million have already been doled out.
But while the growing drumbeat of war is unmistakable, it is unclear whether or not Mr Netanyahu, for all his bellicose rhetoric, has yet fully committed himself to the cause.
Ostensibly, a decision for war has to be approved by Mr Netanyahu’s inner cabinet. But everyone in Israel agrees that the decision ultimately rests with Ehud Barak, the defence minister who is unabashedly in favour of military action, and, most importantly, the prime minister.
“Netanyahu is a much more ambiguous and complex character,” said Jonathan Spyer, a prominent Israeli political analyst. “We know where Barak stands but with Netanyahu it is less clear.
“Netanyahu is not a man who likes military adventures. His two terms as prime minister have been among the quietest in recent Israeli history. Behind the Churchillian character he likes to project is a very much more cautious and vacillating figure.”
But whether Israeli is prepared to leave its fate in American hands is another matter.
“Israelis are psychologically such that they prefer to rely on themselves and not on others, given their history,” the Israeli former senior defence ministry official said. “We feel we have relied on others in the past, and they have failed us.”
Please read the complete article HERE.
War is in the air. Who will attack first? Is what will expire from this prophetic? Will this lead to the destruction of Damascus? Will we see Jerusalem surrounded soon?
Thanks to Bro Truth for making me aware of this article.