When newly appointed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with President Barack Obama next month, don’t expect a public spat over peace process politics.
Sources in the new government tell Newsmax that the Israeli prime minister is determined to focus all of his energy on convincing Obama that preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons dwarfs all other concerns either nation could have.
Netanyahu sees the threat from a nuclear-armed Iran as a “hinge of history,” that could fundamentally alter the world if it goes unchallenged, sources told Newsmax in Jerusalem on Tuesday.
If the world fails to meet the challenge of stopping the Iranian regime’s nuclear quest, Netanayhu believes “this could be a turning point that is irreversible.”
Should Iran succeed in acquiring nuclear weapons, it would be the first time that a radical Islamic regime dedicated to Israel’s destruction had ever acquired such massive destructive power. “We cannot assume that the normal rational calculations other actors have had for the last 50 or 60 years are going to hold true,” one source said.
What may surprise Obama the most is not Netanyahu’s iron-clad determination to stop Iran, but the fact that he and others in the new government see Iran as “a lens” through which they view all other problems in the region.
“Imagine the war in Lebanon in 2006 and Hamas in 2008 with a nuclear tripwire,” one source told Newsmax. “If you allow the mother ship to be armed in a different way, the proxies will be that much more powerful, and threats will increase by factors of magnitude.”
Several Arab states normally hostile to Israel have recently expressed a desire to cooperate with Israel to contain Iran. “Ironically, the Arabs see us increasingly as an ally,” a former top Israeli diplomat told Newsmax. “They see there are only two countries that can deal with Iran: the United States and Israel.”
Netanyahu has been warning for the past 15 years of the threat of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of a terrorist state.
In a 1994 book, “Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorists,” he forecast that terrorists would use a nuclear bomb to blow up the World Trade Center in New York.
In a 1996 address to a Joint Session of Congress in Washington, he said that the greatest threat the world was going to face in the future was a nuclear-armed Iran.
What’s new in 2009 is not only the progress Iran has made toward achieving nuclear weapons capability, but how the proximity of the threat has affected Israel’s strategic thinking.
Retired Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, a former chief of staff who was brought into the new government by Netanyahu and his coalition parties as vice prime minister, was put in charge of a new ministry of strategic affairs.
In a recent essay published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Yaalon described the new strategic outlook that Netanyahu and his coalition partners appear to have adopted.
At the heart of it lies Iran.
“The current conceptual approach to peacemaking, that began at Oslo in 1993, was ‘reframed’ in the 2002 Road Map, and then ‘crowned’ at the Annapolis and Paris conferences in 2007, should now be tabled,” Yaalon wrote.
“Instead, a regional approach to Middle East security, diplomacy, and peacemaking should be pursued, based on the economic and diplomatic isolation of Iran and, if necessary, military action.”
On Sunday, Obama chastised the new Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, for saying exactly the same thing. When Obama meets Netanyahu next month, he is going to find that Lieberman was not alone.
Introducing his government to the Knesset last week for a vote of confidence, Netanyahu revealed that the driving motivation for his decision to bring the center-left Labor Party into his conservative coalition had nothing to do with economic policy or even the stalled peace process with the Palestinians.
“It was the concern for our national security that was the first and main reason that my friends and I strove to achieve national unity at this time,” he said.
Netanyahu blasted world leaders for failing to respond vigorously to the calls by Iran’s leaders to destroy the state of Israel. “However, the Jewish people have learnt their lesson,” he said. “We cannot afford to take lightly megalomaniac tyrants who threaten to annihilate us . . . today we are not defenseless.”
Many Israelis in and around the new government are anxious for Obama’s policies to unfold. Some feel unsure about his real goals or his attitude toward Israel.
Israel appears to understand — and accept — Obama’s desire to offer a new round of negotiations to the Iranian government. But they don’t know if he is truly serious about stopping Iran.
If Obama does not make clear that talks will be replaced with tough measures if Iran refuses to make any concessions, he will face a crisis with the Israeli government.
“If there is no timeline, if Iran can have a feeling they can play for another year simply to gain time and do what they want, that will be unbelievably risky and dangerous,” former Soviet dissident and Israeli government minister Natan Sharansky told Newsmax.
Can Obama live with a nuclear armed Iran? That is the real question many are asking in Jerusalem today.
If the answer is yes, then the “hinge of history” Netanyahu talks about so often is likely to swing in a direction that could be wildly unpredictable.
“In the Middle East, we are used to surprises,” the former diplomat said.
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