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Netanyahu & Obama's Grand Design

Dr. Dan Schueftan: 'U.S. President Barack Obama Apparently Believes Better Atmosphere Between Israel & Palestinians Will Make It Easier To Focus On Truly Serious Threat Of Nuclear Iran'

'Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Also Understands Real Issue Is Not Israel & Palestinians But Israel and U.S.'

'If Threatened By America, Iran May Opt For Nuclear Capability Enabling It To Make Dash To Nuclear Weapons Whenever It Decides'

Barack Obama

What was achieved at the high-profile meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the White House? Dr. Dan Schueftan, Director of the National Security Studies Center At Haifa University, assesses various aspects of of Obama's new Middle East policy and the response of Israel's Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. In this wide-ranging interview with David Essing, Dr. Schueftan also discussed future scenarios against the backdrop of the Iranian nuclear threat. 

'I hope U.S. President Barack Obama has no illusions that once he makes clear he prefers peace in the Middle East, everyone will agree and then ride off into a glowing sunset!' On the contrary, Dr. Dan Schueftan thinks Obama has adopted a realistic approach about what he's doing at a time that Iran may soon go nuclear, to threaten not only the Middle East but the the entire world order. After Obama's meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, it appeared 'Obama was trying to build an atmosphere of hope for Arabs and Muslims but not at the expense of bringing Israel to its knees'. 

'Obama was trying to build an atmosphere of hope for Arabs and Moslems but not at the expense of bringing Israel to its knees'

In Schueftan's assessment, building this hope for the Israeli-Palestinian track in the Arab world will make it easier to focus on the truly serious threat of a nuclear Iran. The Obama administration was well aware that a barbaric and violent regime ruled Iran and was ready to challenge the entire world order once it acquired nuclear weapons. Its goal would be to to control 70% of the world's oil supply by dominating the Gulf states, a move that would trigger the proliferation of six or more nuclear powers creating a nightmare for anyone who sought stability, not only in the Middle East but the entire world. However, from a realistic point of view, it was impossible to foresee the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the foreseeable future. These were two very different challenges; but in the minds of people in the Middle East there was a linkage between the two and therefore a better atmosphere in the Israeli-Palestinian contacts would facilitate tougher action against Tehran, if necessary. Having said that, this linkage was not symmetrical and if there were no progress on the Israeli- Palestinian tract, the Americans would react by declaring: 'We are not going to deal with the Iranian issue!'

Benyamin Netanyahu

In the White House, did the Israeli Prime Minister cooperate with the Obama approach? Schueftan said yes, but far short of what America expects. Netanyahu recognizes that most Israelis do not want to govern the Palestinians but will he go as far as accepting a Palestinian will full sovereignty, airspace, an army and the power to enter into foreign alliances with Israel's enemies, such as Iran? Schueftan noted that when given the chance in their last election, the Palestinians in Gaza voted for Hamas, a radical Islamist organization that openly vows to annihilate Israel. At present, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are two separate entities, with little prospect they will be able to resolve their blood feud. In fact, West Bank President Mahmoud Abbas and his Premier Salam Fayad, relative moderates, enjoy little popular support and certainly not for reciprocal concessions to Israel. (Shin Bet Security Chief Yuval Diskin has said that if Palestinians on the West Bank went to an election today, Hamas would have a good chance of winning. Furthermore, as long as Hamas controlled the Gaza Strip there was no chance of progress for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations). 

Netanyahu recognized the real issue is not Israel and the Palestinians but Israel and the Americans.

In light of the current reality, Schueftan believed the Americans would settle for Israel's removal of most illegal outposts, and Israel would be 'foolish not to honor this previous commitment' (given by Ariel Sharon). In addition, Israel would be pressed to freeze settlement building with exceptions possibly concerning Jerusalem and Israeli settlement blocs. If so, Prime Minister Netanyahu would be able to keep his coalition in tact, despite the vocal protests of some of his Right-wing coalition partners. Netanyahu recognized the real issue is not Israel and the Palestinians but Israel and the Americans.

But even if the U.S. does succeed in dissuading the Iranians from going nuclear, they will still be only a dash away from developing the bomb

As for Iran, it was not far from producing a nuclear device, or as Schueftan put it: 'They are there there , they have the potential for doing it'. The Obama administration might realistically hope that it could prevent Iran from going nuclear although it did possess  the capability to 'dash' to producing nuclear weapons. The idea was that it might be deterred from a clash with the Americans. This had actually happened in 2003 when it suspended its nuclear weaponization program because it was worried about the proximity of the American military buildup in nearby Iraq. However, after the Americans ran into trouble in Iraq, the Iranians renewed their weaponization activity. But even if the U.S. does succeed in dissuading the Iranians from going nuclear, they will still be only a dash away from developing the bomb, creating a grave dilemma for both Israel, the U.S. and the rest of the world.  

David Essing

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