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Israeli Settlement Freeze & Iran

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Weighing Pros & Cons Of Extending Settlement Freeze Amid Massive U.S. Pressure

Some Right-wing Supporters Threaten To Topple Government If Netanyahu Renews Freeze - Left Wing Labor Threatens To Bolt Cabinet If He Doesn't

IsraCast: Netanyahu's Decision- making On Settlement Freeze Could Impact On Issue Of Nuclear Iran

Benyamin Netanyahu, Barack Obama (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

 Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu continues to agonize over what to do about U.S. President Barack Obama's demand that Israel extend the settlement freeze in Judea & Samaria for another two months. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is sticking to his guns and refusing to carry on direct peace talks after the freeze expired on Sept.26th. The Arab League is scheduled to meet on Oct.8th to decide where it stands. Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmud Achmadenijad is due to visit Lebanon shortly in a demonstration of support for his Hezbollah surrogate forces and travel down to the Israeli border. IsraCast analyst David Essing sees a link between the issue of the settlement freeze and the Iranian nuclear threat.

 Is there a connection between the Israeli settlement freeze and the Iranian nuclear threat to the Jewish state? Although they may appear to be two separate issues, they are more intertwined than meets the eye or enters the public discourse. While Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu agonizes over whether to reject U.S.pressure to continue the settlement freeze he must also be aware that he could be jeopardizing American support at a time time he may need it more than ever. Iran's President Mumamed Achmadenijad is about to make a much heralded visit to Lebanon's border with Israel where he will reportedly throw symbolic stones at Israel. For the present, the Obama administration has apparently persuaded Israel to sit tight over the Iranian nuclear threat and let the international sanctions run their course. But the Israeli intelligence assessment is the latest sanctions will not deter the Iranians - an assessment that also coincides with that of CIA Director Leon Panetta. At some point, apparently within another year or so, the current diplomatic fiasco with Iran will reach a climax - Iran will start the 'dash' to upgrade its 20% enriched uranium to the 90%, required for producing a nuclear weapon. Then ultimate decisions will have to be taken in Jerusalem and Washington.

Thirty-seven years after the Yom Kippur War when Israel's survival also hung in the balance, America's support may prove to be just as crucial now as it did then when the Egyptian- Syrian surprise attack threatened to overrun the Jewish state. The Israel State Archives has just released the 'Top Secret' protocols of some of the war deliberations conducted by Prime Minister Golda Meir. One of the most intriguing questions is what effect would an Israeli air strike have had, if it had been launched at noon on October 6th, when it was absolutely clear that the Arabs had caught Israel napping and were about to launch a massive offensive on two fronts. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, whose opposition apparently prevented the air strike, had argued that it would not have altered the situation on the ground. On the contrary, Israel would have been blamed as the aggressor and jeopardized vital American support in the UN Security Council as well as endangering the U.S. supply of crucial supplies of aircraft and other military equipment. Dayan viewed the Yom Kippur War as the 'second round' of the Arab drive to annihilate the Jewish state after the War of Independence in 1948.

Iranian President Ahmadinejad

Now apparently in 2011, Israel appears destined to face a 'third round' this time not by the Arabs but by the Iranian nuclear threat. Obviously, the conditions have changed, but will Israel be no less dependent on America's diplomatic and material support, if it is forced to stand alone against Iran(and Hezbollah, Hamas and possibly Syria)? This time, the very threat to Israel's survival will be at stake and Israel may have no choice but to launch a preventive air strike against America's wishes. But Prime Minister Netanyahu must also consider whether it is worth risking relations with President Barack Obama over an extension of the settlement freeze.

And when Iran finally does pull out all the stops and starts its dash to enriching weapons grade uranium, is an Israeli air strike inevitable? While Israeli leaders have always declared that Iran must not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons without further comment. Several strategic experts such as a former Israel Air Force Commander Maj. Gen.(res.) Eitan Ben Eliyahu and Maj.Gen.(res.)Yitzak Ben Yisrael believe that although difficult, Israel does have the capability to knock out Iran's nuclear weapons sites. On another level, the authoritative Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram has disclosed that if not for Mossad Director Meir Dagan's clandestine operations, Iran would have acquired nuclear weapons years ago. (This speaks volumes about what Cairo thinks of nuclear weapons in the hands of its arch-enemy Iran.)

Aside from the existential threat posed by a nuclear Iran to a tiny state like Israel, Daniel Gordis of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem has also raised another aspect. Writing in the latest edition of Commentary, Gordis discusses the crushing impact the threat of nuclear extinction would have on Israelis. Gordis argues: 'Without purpose, Israelis will not remain in Israel. The allures of Boston and Silicon Valley, where intellectual and financial opportunity await without burdens of war and the shadow of extinction, will be too difficult to resist ... the most mobile of Israel's citizens, who happen to be those whom the state most desperately needs, will be the ones who abandon it. In this way, Iran could end the Jewish state without ever pressing the button'.

Should these considerations not be uppermost in Prime Minister Netayahu's decision-making at this time, despite the media hype around Israel's party politics?

David Essing

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