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It’s about the Iranian Bomb, Not Obama

Earlier this year, a leftist Israeli think tank surveyed Israelis’ opinion of the left. The results were shocking: 63 percent viewed it unfavorably, 48 percent deemed it elitist, only 33 percent said it shared their values, only 31 percent deemed it capable of governing effectively, and only 28 percent thought it had good solutions for national security challenges.

Clearly, this stems primarily from the disastrous outcome of the left’s territorial withdrawal policy. But leftists who profess themselves bewildered by these results would also be well-advised to study the recent spate of leftist pundits (here and here, for instance) claiming that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main, if not only, reason for weighing an attack on Iran this fall is to harm President Barack Obama’s reelection bid.

To these pundits, it’s inconceivable that Netanyahu could be motivated by objective concerns, such as the latest International Atomic Energy Agency report, which shows that Iran has doubled the number of centrifuges at its underground Fordow facility. At this rate, given Israel’s limited military capabilities, Iran’s nuclear program may well be invulnerable to an Israeli strike by spring (if it isn’t already), meaning Israel’s only choices may be strike now or accept a nuclear Iran. But many leftists can’t credit a center-right politician with genuine concern for Israel’s wellbeing; they can only see him as driven by petty personal hatreds.

Similarly, these pundits can’t accept that Netanyahu might reasonably deem the sanctions/diplomacy track dead. After 120 nations sent senior officials to the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran this week–where all, including the UN secretary-general, listened without demurral as Iran’s supreme leader reiterated his threats to annihilate Israel–many non-leftist commentators concluded that contrary to the Obama administration’s assertions, Iran is far from isolated, and will thus easily find allies to help it evade Western sanctions. But many leftists seem unable to imagine a reasonable person of goodwill evaluating the evidence differently than they do.

Nor is it conceivable to them that Netanyahu might have sensible geostrategic considerations. As participants at a recent Gatestone roundtable noted, this is a uniquely propitious moment for an Israeli strike. Hamas has abandoned Iran’s orbit over the latter’s support for Syrian President Bashar Assad. Assad’s regime is so embattled that he has neither men nor equipment to spare for joining any Iranian counterstrike on Israel. And Hezbollah is not only under increasing pressure from its Lebanese rivals, but it fears losing its main conduit for arms supplies, since Syria’s Sunni opposition might well block arms shipments to the Shi’ite group if it took power. Thus even Hezbollah will think twice about emptying its arsenal to support an Iranian counterstrike. None of this may still be true come spring. But many leftists seem unable to credit a center-right politician with rational thought.

Yet this petty inability to credit a rival with any positive motives is only the lesser half of what most Israelis find off-putting. Far worse is that in their desperate quest to deny that Netanyahu could possibly have valid reasons for his behavior, many leftists have closed their eyes to reality itself: They have become incapable of admitting that any of the factors cited above even exists, because doing so would undercut their narrative that Netanyahu is motivated solely by spite.

No, it really isn’t about Obama–it’s about the Iranian bomb. And as long as the left is incapable of understanding that, it will never regain Israelis’ trust.


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