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Obama's Sellout Vs. Netanyahu's Debacle

Israeli Leaders Shocked By U.S. Vote In Favour Of UN Decision To Consider Monitoring Of Jewish State's Nuclear Facilities

Issue Expected To Be High On Agenda Of Minister Prime Minister Netanyahu's Meeting With President Obama In White House

IsraCast Assessment: Obama Sacrifices Jewish State's Crucial Nuclear Interest While Netanyahu Neglected To Preserve American Support For Israel's 'Obscure' Nuclear Policy

Barack Obama | Benyamin Netanyahu

 Israeli officials were convinced that U.S. President Barack Obama's invitation to Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was a good omen. After the wrangling over Israeli settlement building in Judea & Samaria and east Jerusalem, Israeli-U.S. relations were back on track. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel even delivered the invitation during a private visit to Israel, where he was welcomed warmly. One Israeli daily even went as far as to quote Netanyahu as declaring in private 'I won!' Then came the bombshell; the U.S. for the first time in some forty years voted in favor of a UN decision for a conference in 2012 to discuss international inspection of Israel's nuclear facilities. IsraCast analyst David Essing says even Netanyahu's political rivals are flabbergasted by the U.S. vote.

By and the large, the Israeli reaction is one of astonishment. For some forty years, as far back as Prime Minister Golda Meir and President Richard Nixon, Israel had secured a quiet presidential commitment that Washington would not press Jerusalem on the nuclear issue, as long as the Jewish state was threatened by her neighbors. Now with Iran threatening to wipe Israel 'off the map' and while Tehran proceeds to acquire nuclear weapons to do it, the U.S. suddenly decides to vote for a process that could eventually strip Israel of any nuclear weapons, if she does indeed possess them. And as if anyone really believes that Obama has a chance of mobilizing severe sanctions that could stop Iran's nuclear weapons program.

Even if Obama is driven by good intentions, starting to rid the world of nuclear weapons, he wants to pay in Israeli coin. The very articulate Dan Meridor, Cabinet Minister For Strategic Affairs, was hard pressed to react to Obama's decision. He called it 'unfair and distorted', noting the UN vote had singled out the Jewish state. Meridor stressed that four of Israel's most hostile neighbors Iraq, Libyia, Iran and Syria had signed the Nuclear Non- proliferation Treaty, but secretly tried to develop nuclear weapons. They had deceived the nuclear inspectors they were obligated to allow visit their nuclear facilities in return for nuclear technologies. Israel decided not to sign the NPPT and to forgo the nuclear aid.

With a nuclear reactor in the Negev town of Dimona, Israel has long held that she will not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East. Moreover, Israel's vague or obscure nuclear policy indicates that Israel would view her nuclear potential as strictly defensive because any threat to use it would reveal its existence. It is a fact, that even in the darkest days of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, when the massed Egyptian and Syrians armies caught the IDF by surprise and threatened to defeat Israel, even then Israel did not threaten to use nuclear weapons, if she had had them at her disposal. At the time, the situation was so dire that Defense Minister Moshe Dayan was quoted as warning about the 'fall of the Third Temple!' Israel has never threatened to unleash her purported nuclear weapons, nor threatened to wipe a UN sister state off the map.

Dimona Reactor

Yet, President Obama apparently eager to keep up momentum for his Utopian plans of ridding the world of nuclear weapons has singled out the Jewish state that is openly threatened with annihilation. After his diplomatic engagement with Tehran has flopped Obama has decided to throw Israel into the pot and let's see what happens. He has equated a fanatical Islamist tyranny , the number one sponsor of international terrorism with a tiny, democratic state struggling to survive in the most violent region of the world. If in the past, the U.S. President declared:'It is unacceptable that Iran acquire nuclear weapons' Obama has expanded that by now implying: 'It is unacceptable that Israel also posses nuclear weapons'.

It's not as if Obama thinks he is playing fast and loose with the nation of survivors from the Holocaust. He and his aides will pledge to preserve Israel's survival - perhaps by extending the 'defensive umbrella' for the Gulf states that Secretary Clinton has proposed. However, Israelis will remember that America's good intentions during one presidency may evaporate during another, depending upon the White House perception of U.S. national interests. This was the case in the run-up to the Six Day War when the Johnson administration refused to honor a U.S. commitment to keep open the strategic Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping and again during the crucial days of the Yom Kippur War when bickering in the Nixon administration delayed the crucial resupply of weapons to the IDF. A pillar of Israel's defense thinking has always been that Jews must remain strong enough to do their own fighting - that was an unforgettable lesson of the Holocaust.

From an Israeli vantage point, Obama does not enjoy much of a credit rating to say the least. After taking office, the newly elected President promptly gave a year for his diplomatic effort to force Iran to halt her nuclear weapons program. When pressed about this being a waste of time, his aides privately confided that if so , it would later vindicate a more aggressive action. One and a half years later, all that Obama has to show is some watered down sanctions that no one believes will force Iran to stop. Now, the Obama tact seems to be that pressing Israel will serve as a lever for mobilizing greater pressure on Iran. Again, this will turn out to be a dead-end. Nor will the current radical Islamist regime in Tehran ever agree to halt its nuclear program because the U.S. is getting tough with Israel. Israeli experts who actually read, listen and understand the Farsi language say that President Ahmadenijad and his colleagues want the bomb for their religious aspirations that includes dominating the Middle East and the entire Muslim world. In their eyes, the Jewish state is the stalking horse for a future confrontation with Christianity, which they view as their arch enemy.

For the sake of argument, it can be said that Israel's alleged nuclear capability has actually served as a force for peace in the Middle East. For example, Egypt's President Anwar Sadat came to the conclusion that his country would pay an intolerable price, if she came close to annihilating the Jewish state. Therefore, he signed a peace treaty with Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Moreover, would Israel if weakened militarily, be more or less willing to make territorial concessions? The answer is obviously, less willing. In addition, a weakened Israel might tempt the Arab world to rekindle a new offensive to destroy the Jewish state. At the moment, in spite of the Obama administration's denials, the U.S. vote has placed Israel, the victim of Iran's verbal aggression and radical Iran on the same level. It is a false moral symmetry that has angered and dismayed most Israelis.

Netanyahu's Debacle

Binyamin Netanyahu (Photo: Amit Shabi)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was swift to reject the UN vote and the notion that Israel will open her nuclear facilities to international inspection. There is no way that the Israeli public will agree to accept such a foolhardy plan that boils down to revealing all her secrets while fanatic enemies, bent on her destruction, will secretly develop their nuclear arsenals. It is a moot point as to whether Netanyahu could have prevented Obama from supporting the UN decision. What is clear is that the wrangling over the two state solution and settlement building soured relations between Jerusalem and Washington at a time that cooperation in confronting Iran was and is of paramount importance. Critics charge that Netanyahu did not keep his eye on the ball and was more concerned with placating his Right-wing coalition partners. Even former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon knew he should back down and acquiesce in President George Bush's Roadmap peace plan. Sharon understood that it would not pay to cross Bush who was in deep trouble in Iraq and in need of Arab support. Rather than ride out the political storm as did Sharon, Netanyahu did not act accordingly.

Sharon's cooperation was appreciated by Bush and their friendship prospered. (The Israeli Prime Minister tacked on fourteen conditions to his acceptance which everyone ignored.) But from the start, Netanyahu's initial opposition to the two-state solution and his high-profile settlement building resulted in rancorous relations with Obama. And it should also have been clear to Netanyahu, after Obama's Cairo speech, that the new President meant business about improving relations with the Arab world. Obama's message was that the 'special relationship' with Israel would not be at the expense of the Muslims. But it's also possible that Obama from the outset was determined to use the carrot rather than the stick with Israel- if so he is still doing so. The Prime Minister's closest ally is actually Labor Party leader Ehud Barak. The Defense Minister recently returned from a trip to Washington, where Obama dropped in cordially on his meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Barak also enjoys the best relations with the Obama administration and he came home urging Netanyahu to come out with a serious political initiative and to bring Kadima leader Tzipi Livni into the government if the Right-wing parties bolted. The Defense Minister warned of the consequences, if Israel's ties with Washington deteriorated further. The question now is what understanding if any, Obama and Netanyahu will reach with the nuclear pall now hanging over the White House.

David Essing, IsraCast, Jerusalem

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