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Iran, Netanyahu & Roosevelt's 'Poised Rattlesnake'

Defense Minister Ehud Barak: "In Facing Iranian Nuclear Threat Impossible For Israel To Depend 100% On U.S. Acting Against Iran"

"In Washington, I told American Officials That Netanyahu Means What He Says About Preventin A Nuclear Iran & This Represents Israel's Position'

IsraCast Suggestion: Netanyahu Should Quote U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt: "When You See A Rattlesnake Poised To Strike, You Do Not Wait Until He Has Struck Before You Crush Him"

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

 What is at the core of the widening differences between U.S. President Barack Obama and Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the Iranian nuclear crisis? The bad blood has apparently influenced Obama even to refrain from meeting Netanyahu during his visit to the U.S. for the current UN General Assembly session. In an interview with the Israeli 'Yisrael Today', Defense Minister Ehud Barak discussed how Jerusalem and Washington take a different view of the evolving situation. IsraCast analyst David Essing says it is not simply a matter of personality but of geopolitical perspective.

 Not even in American hands...

Ehud Barak: "I hope the world will react and under no circumstances permit Iran to acquire a military capability. But can we depend upon it 100%? I say no". The Defense Minister was in tune with Binyamin Netanyahu who recently asked: "What happens if the U.S. does not act?" And then Barak expanded by saying Israel could not place its very defense and future in the hands of even its best friend the U.S. This was the supreme national responsibility of Israel's leaders. In his view, the Americans were aware of this position and respected it".

On this note, important people in Israel, (such as President Shimon Peres) had told him he was lacking in trust: "Why can't you depend on 'A' or 'B' or a third party, let them take action". To this Barak replied: "I say, nothing is clear".

Sanctions won't work...

Ehud Barak (Photo: Amit Shabi)

Clearly Israel would like to see a further stiffening of sanctions that had some affect but Barak was skeptical they would do the trick: "Personally, I do not think the sanctions will work. We would be very happy to wake up one day and see 'the penny had dropped' for the Iranians and they had halted their nuclear program. But clearly this is not a realistic evaluation".

"I would not be sorry if the Americans, in their own interests, decided to act on their own. We would not try to stop them. When we say all the options are on the table we mean it and we expect others to mean it as well. I think the Americans also have impressive capabilities in this field. But on this issue we depend first and foremost upon ourselves".

Forget containment....

Barak praised the recent resolution by the U.S. Senate in favor of strengthening sanctions on Iran. It also staked out a position for the next U.S. president whether Obama is reelected or not. The responsibility of the U.S. administration, as Obama stated explicitly, was to bar Iran from acquiring a nuclear capability and to employ all the means available, including force if necessary. As for differences between Israel and the U.S. although they had t widened recently they were exaggerated by the media. Israel was acting to reach understandings with Washington (this was actually Barak's top priority in also meeting Chicago Mayor Ram Emmanuel, Obama's pal). The bottom line was that both Israel and the U.S. viewed a nuclear Iran as unacceptable. For its part Israel was determined that Iran would not go nuclear and 'all options were on the table except the option of containment'.

Same goal but different clocks....

Washington and Jerusalem have the same goal; the problem was how to achieve it. Here there were some differences that were actually smaller than they appeared from the outside. Barak, who has penchant for taking apart clocks and reassembling them, explained:

"We and the Americans agree the Iranians are bent on getting the Bomb but we have different clocks. On one hand, the Iranians have not issued the order to build the Bomb. But we estimate they have not given the order because the Iranians realize that if they do, then we, the Americans and others would spot it. They fear this would trigger a military operation that would set them back. Therefore they first seek to create a situation that will protect there facilities from a possible surgical strike by Israel or the U.S.. After that they will consider how to proceed. Our clock differs from the American because our operational options are more limited. Israel does not have all the American options. As a result, when the Iranians dig protected installations and acquire more centrifuges they make it more difficult for Israel to act at an earlier stage than it does for the U.S. That's the whole story".

Barak repeated that both he and Netanyahu have said it was not a matter of weeks but neither was it a matter of years. It was important the Iranians understood it. During his talks in Washington last week, the Defense Minister had stressed that Netanyahu meant what he said and he represented the position of the state of Israel and not just his own personal outlook.

Netanyahu and Obama in the White House (Photo: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

IsraCast Assessment: Netanyahu has been criticized by some for interventing in the U.S. presidential campaign on the side of Mitt Romney. Barak denied there had been any such hidden intention on the part of the Prime Minister. The view from Jerusalem is that the recent IAEA report is so grave and the Iranian rhetoric so vitriolic that time is fast running out. Therefore IsraCast suggests that during his visit to the U.S. Netanyahu should quote from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who once warned of the threat of Nazi Germany before the U.S. entered World War II:

"When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, you do not wait until he has struck before you crush him."

David Essing

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