Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz predicted on Tuesday that President Obama’s apparent snub of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will put the critical swing state of Florida at “substantial risk” in the November election and threatens to further ratchet up the likelihood of a military strike against Iran.
“I think that the Democrats are in danger of losing even at this point a majority of the Jewish voters,” asserted Dershowitz in an exclusive interview with Newsmax. “What matters is how many votes they get in Florida. And I think they are putting Florida at substantial risk.”
Faced with growing tensions between the two countries over Iran's nuclear threat, the White House had earlier rejected a request by Israel’s leader to meet with President Obama when he visits the United States this month, according to Reuters.
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Netanyahu's aides had asked for a meeting when he visits the United Nations this month, and "the White House has got back to us and said it appears a meeting is not possible,” an unnamed Israeli official told the wire service. “It said that the president's schedule will not permit that."
Dershowitz, a Newsmax contributor, who has largely been supportive of Obama’s handling of the Iranian threat, insists that it’s a “mistake” for the president not to meet with Netanyahu, something that has not happened on any of Netanyahu’s previous trips to the U.S. since 2009.
“It suggests that the United States will permit the development of nuclear weapons and will not take military action, notwithstanding that the president has said that containment is off the table and that no military option is off the table,” Dershowitz said. “This sends a very confusing message to the Iranians and thus also to the Israelis.”
Dershowitz believes that Israel will be more likely to take “unilateral action” against Iran as a result.
“The people of Israel will say ‘look, if the president of the United States won’t even meet with the prime minister at a time like this how can Israel count on the United States to keep its promise not to allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons?” he explained.
Such unilateral action could come even before the November presidential election is decided, but there are other considerations that are more likely to factor into Israel’s military planning.
“It’s really not the election that’s the factor. It’s the seasons and the timing, the winter months, when it’s appropriate to take military action from a military point of view,” observed Dershowitz. “I think the dynamics have now changed, and I think the odds on Israel taking action between now and the winter season have gone up somewhat.”
Even more troubling to Dershowitz than Obama’s apparent snub is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s comments that the U.S. would not impose a so-called “red line” on Iran, referring to a specific deadline, and maintaining that there is still time for diplomacy to work after four rounds of U.N. sanctions.
“What the United States has to do is send a clear message to Iran that they will not be able to develop nuclear weapons. Why endure the difficulty of sanctions if they are not going to be able to develop nuclear weapons anyway?” said Dershowitz.
“The president has to say in no uncertain terms that no matter what happens [the Iranians] will not be permitted to develop nuclear weapons,” he added. “One hopes that they will be stopped non militarily but if it takes military action to stop them from developing nuclear weapons then that military action has to take place. The president has to make that as clear as could be.”
Dershowitz said that Obama can send such a message through Netanyahu, the United Nations or by other means. The forum is not as important as clarity.
“It’s absolutely essential that that message be sent, and that the two audiences for that message are both the mullahs in Iran and the leadership in Israel,” according to Dershowitz.
Acknowledging the president’s majority support among Jewish voters, Dershowitz said that support is likely to be eroded by a combination of recent events.
“A combination of the fiasco that occurred involving the platform and how it was handled and the refusal, if it’s true, to meet with Netanyahu,” he said, “and the refusal to send the clearest possible message to Iran I think will make it more difficult, not only for Jewish voters by the way, but for very many non-Jewish, pro-Israel voters.”
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He did not directly say whether he felt that the Obama administration could have been reacting to Netanyahu’s comments that the U.S. had forfeited its moral right to stop Israel from taking action against Iran.
“I don’t think the United States ever has the right to stop a sovereign nation from defending its own citizens from the risk of apocalyptic nuclear attack — just as Israel would not have the right to stop the United States from taking action to protect its own citizens,” he said.
“I think it would have been better — and still would be better — if the United States were to send unequivocal messages both to Iran and to Israel saying ‘no need to take action now. The United States not only has your back, but makes a commitment that Iran will never under any circumstances be permitted to develop nuclear weapons.’”
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