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Will Obama Punt on Iran?

The anti-Israel Left has to be encouraged by recent signals from Washington that the Obama administration is preparing to turn the screws on Israel. A report in today’s Ha’aretz claims that routine cooperation and consultation between the United States and Israel has declined in recent months.

While some focused on the inconsistent and largely misleading statements of Vice President Biden at the AIPAC conference earlier this week, more troubling — and an even bigger surprise to Jerusalem — was the less-heralded statement of Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller in which she called on Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Gottemoeller’s decision to talk openly about this issue shows there are some in the administration whose strategy to deal with the existential threat of Iranian nukes is to try and simply change the topic. The point being if they can deflect the conversation toward the question of democratic Israel’s right to a nuclear deterrent, it will lessen the pressure on them to do something about Islamist extremists in Tehran gaining the ability to make good on their threats to exterminate the Jewish state.

No one should doubt the attraction that the futile quest for a Palestinian state (one that Israel’s supporters want more than the Palestinians) holds for the State Department and other Middle East “realists.” But it may ultimately be a clever way to continue prevaricating about Iran. Since no one can really believe that either Hamas or the powerless Palestinian Authority are the least bit interested in actually agreeing to a viable two-state solution at this point, what is the point in putting the screws to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about this? If, as recent reports claim, Obama insists on a strategy that makes the quixotic Palestinian track a higher priority than the Iranian issue, he is setting up a scenario that guarantees Tehran will wind up with nuclear weapons.

Newsweek’s Michael Hirsh predicts that what Obama is planning will be a “new strategic approach” on Iran that won’t be unveiled until after the Iranian presidential elections. The administration is hoping that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be defeated by another candidates (who has been pre-approved by the ayatollahs) and that this will serve as the justification for Obama to walk away from his own pre-election pledges to stop Iran from getting the bomb. That would leave Israel’s government with the choice of sitting back and waiting for their country to be put under a nuclear death sentence or to act on their own and precipitate a major break with their only ally.

What Obama needs to understand is that punting on the Iranian threat will spike any hope for the sort of international quiet that he needs in order to concentrate on his ambitious domestic agenda. If he chooses not to act on Iran, while provoking a needless breach with our Israeli allies, it will go a long way toward answering the question of whether or not he is the leftist ideologue that some on the Left hoped for — and that some on the Right have feared — rather than the pragmatist most Americans believed they were electing last November.



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