Rahm Emanuel suggested that the administration is trying to thread a needle: providing “unshakeable” support for Israel; protecting it from the consequences of an Iranian nuclear bomb; but pushing it toward compromise with the Palestinians. Emanuel, in our meeting, disputed that Israel is incapable of moving forward on the peace process so long as Iran looms as an existential threat. And he drafted the past six Israeli prime ministers—including Netanyahu, who during his first term in the late 1990s, to his father’s chagrin, compromised with the Palestinians—to buttress his case. “Rabin, Peres, Netanyahu, Barak, Sharon, Olmert—every one of them pursued some form of a negotiated settlement, which would have been in Israel’s own strategic interest,” he said. “There have been plenty of other threats while successive Israeli governments have pursued a peace process. There is no doubt that Iran is a major threat, but they didn’t just flip the switch on [the nuclear program] a year ago.”
Emanuel had one more message to deliver: for the most practical of reasons, Israel should consider carefully whether a military strike would be worth the trouble it would unleash. “I’m not sure that given the time line, whatever the time line is, that whatever they did, they wouldn’t stop” the nuclear program, he said. “They would be postponing.”
It was then that I realized that, on some subjects, the Israelis and Americans are still talking past each other. The Americans consider a temporary postponement of Iran’s nuclear program to be of dubious value. The Israelis don’t. “When Menachem Begin bombed Osirak [in Iraq], he had been told that his actions would set back the Iraqis one year,” one cabinet minister told me. “He did it anyway.”
Thursday, August 12, 2010
The Point of No Return...
An outstanding long article by Jeffrey Goldberg in Atlantic on the situation in the Middle East, mainly Iran vs. Israel. There's far too much good stuff there to excerpt meaningfully, but here's a small sample: