Just before their private meeting today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly emphasized a key theme to President Obama.
Referring to the speech Obama gave to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Sunday morning, Netanyahu said: "I think that above and beyond that are two principles, longstanding principles of American policy that you reiterated yesterday in your speech -- that Israel must have the ability always to defend itself by itself against any threat; and that when it comes to Israel's security, Israel has the right, the sovereign right to make its own decisions. I believe that's why you appreciate, Mr. President, that Israel must reserve the right to defend itself."
That's as explicit as Netanyahu can get that he's prepared to strike Iran and would expect the Obama administration to be supportive if he reaches that decision.
During his AIPAC speech yesterday, Obama offered boilerplate about all options being on the table on Iran, but at the same time he spoke of letting diplomacy work and giving sanctions more time to kick in. He also emphasized preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, but Israel's red line comes earlier -- the point at which Iran develops nuclear capability.
Caroline Glick helpfully explains why Israel is working with a shorter timeline:
From Israel's perspective, Iran's nuclear program will reportedly become unstoppable as soon as the Iranians move a sufficient quantity of enriched uranium and/or centrifuges to the Fordow nuclear installation by Qom. Since Israel reportedly lacks the ability to destroy the facility, Israel's timeline for attacking Iran will likely end within weeks. The US reportedly has the capacity to successfully bomb Fordow and so its timeline for attacking Iran is longer than Israel's.
The reason this is important is because it tells us the true nature of Obama's demand that Israel give more time for sanctions and diplomacy to work. When one recognizes Israel's short timeline for attacking, one realizes that when Obama demands that Israel give several more months for sanctions to work, what he is actually demanding is for Israel to place its survival in his hands. Again, once Iran's nuclear project is immune from an Israeli strike Obama will effectively hold the key to Israel's survival. Israel will be completely at his mercy.
Some commentators, no doubt, would make the case that Obama is in fact seriously committed to stopping Iran from going nuclear. But if you're Netanyahu, the question is, can you take a chance? Given how highly concentrated Israel's population is on a narrow strip of land, can you risk the destruction of your nation? Can you roll the dice on a second Holocaust? Can you really trust Obama?
Obama, as I noted yesterday, entered office openly hostile toward Israel. He treated Jews building homes in the Jerusalem area as a bigger threat to peace than Iran developing a nuclear weapon. He wasted precious time pursuing a policy of engaging Iran that clearly had no chance of working, based on the old fashioned assumption that radical regimes that promise "death to America" and talk in terms of wiping another nation off the map don't generally make the best negotiating partners. Glick offers a more detailed case for skepticism about Obama, eventually concluding:
The fact is that Obama's actions and his words have made clear that Israel cannot trust him, not on Iran and not on anything. The only thing that has been consistent about his Israel policy has been its hostility. As a consequence, the only messages emanating from his administration we can trust are those telling us that if Obama is reelected, he will no longer feel constrained to hide his hatred for Israel.
The bottom line is that Israel may have little choice but to strike Iran, and soon.