After reading Bibi Netanyahu’s profoundly delusional and mendacious Aipac speech from earlier today, I’m left with two impressions: the most important one is that Israel will attack Iran. His remarks read like a declaration of war.
Believe me, no Jew invokes a historical parallel to the tragic failure of the Allies to bomb the concentration camps unless he means to equate Iran with the Nazi murderers. Of course, Bibi’s done that in the past, but in an almost peremptory fashion. Today’s reference, in which he accused anyone who argued against attacking Iran with those who refused to bomb Auschwitz, seemed more dramatic, more gut-wrenching. This is no longer political theater. This is straight from the kishke stuff. You don’t talk this way as a Jew unless you mean to act. And when an Israeli leader “acts” he doesn’t turn to diplomacy or sanctions or anything similar. He turns to F-16s, missiles and the things he knows best: war.
The other thing that appears slightly less clear, but I feel confident in saying, is that Bibi will likely leave town believing that if he jumped off a cliff, Obama wasn’t going with him. Bibi pointedly said that Israel reserved the right to attack Iran. But his rhetoric never attempted in even the most subtle way to invoke the U.S. as a partner to such an attack.
But the converse of such a statement may be that Obama has given Israel a green light to attack Iran by itself. That in itself would be a terrible dereliction of leadership on the part of the U.S. Not to mention that Israel cannot do the job on its own with the limited weapons at its disposal. Meaning that Israel can at most wound this enemy and we all know that a wounded enemy can be the most fierce, most angry, most lethal.
It may be possible that Obama would ship Israel the bunker busters, refueling tankers and other materiel needed for such an attack. Again such deeds on our part would make us accessory to the catastrophe that will follow, though it will be harder for the world to view us as the major culprit.
Alternately, if Obama has told him he can attack Iran but won’t get any help from the U.S., Obama’s goal may be to give Bibi enough rope to hang himself. Any reasonable political leader reading Bibi’s speech has to understand that the Israeli leader has driven himself and his country into a deeply delusional place. Obama may perhaps believe that if Israel attacks Iran alone, that it will at least be hitting a target the American people loathe, so it won’t harm the president politically. An added benefit might be that it would harm Bibi in the long run so deeply that he will be politically wounded by the failure of the attack.
Any U.S. involvement, even indirectly, in supporting an Israeli attack would be a deeply cynical act. But those of us who’ve watched Obama’s national security policy over the last three years know that he has embraced the same national security presidency as George Bush. Protected by the label of liberal Democrat, he’s pursued policies as injurious or more, to civil liberties and international law, as his predecessor. Which in a sense makes him even more dangerous. At least with Bush we knew what we were getting and were always on our guard. Not so with Obama who maintains a progressive veneer.
This article appeared at Tikun Olam