Israel Delivers “Or Else” Demands to Obama

by James M. Wall

A message from Israel arrived on our shores this week. It came from the prime minister and defense minister of Israel.

The message was not sent in a diplomatic pouch.  Nor did it come in a private conversation between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barak Obama, though we have to assume the same message had already been sent to the White House.

The message was a warning that the Strong Man of the Middle East will go to war against Iran before Election Day, November 6, unless Barack Obama meets two Israeli demands. The warning was delivered by the New York Times in a news analysis, “Israeli Leaders Could Be Dissuaded From Striking Iran”, by the Times’ Jerusalem correspondent, Jodi Rudoren.

A former Israeli national security adviser said Wednesday that the prime minister and the defense minister told him this week they had not yet decided to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities and could be dissuaded from a strike if President Obama approved stricter sanctions and publicly confirmed his willingness to use military force.

Got that Mr. President? Only you can prevent this forest fire from engulfing the Middle East. Israel has lit the flame. Netanyahu has sent the warning: Either you do exactly what we demand—stricter sanctions and a public statement that the U.S. is willing to use military force against Iran—or else we will ignite the deadly flame of war against Iran.

The message carries the ominous deadline language Israel puts on the table in all of its threats. The warning came from Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak through a credible source, Uzi Dayan, who met with the two Israeli leaders Monday.

“There is a window of opportunity,” said the official, Uzi Dayan, a former deputy chief of staff in the military. “This window is closing, but if the United States would be much clearer and stronger about the sanctions on one hand and about what can happen if Iran won’t make a U-turn — there is not a lot of time, but there is still time to make a difference.”

Dayan is currently chairman of the national lottery. 

He was being considered for the post of minister of the military’s Home Front Command, which he said he turned down, and therefore extensively discussed with the two leaders the security threats that Israel is facing, particularly from Iran. (Another leading security official, Avi Dichter, is expected to be confirmed by Parliament as the home front minister on Thursday.)

Netanyahu has experience setting conditions that end with the bully’s growl, “or else”. For their part, the Palestinians are accustomed to Netanyahu’s tactics. He has successfully prolonged the failed peace talks with the Palestinian Authority by making new demands that move the goal post further down the field to failure.

“Recognize Israel’s right to exist” was not on the peace talk table until after a few years into the negotiations. Netanyahu decided he would play the “right to exist” card as a demand he knew the Palestinians would refuse to accept.

When the Palestinians make progress toward stability on the world stage with steps like negotiating for recognition as a state, Netanyahu offers some crumbs if the PA would delay its talks with the UN. The PA wisely ignored him.

Tony Karon, veteran Middle East observer for Time magazine, described the intense discussion within Israeli media, for and against an Israeli attack.

One of Israel’s most senior columnists, Maariv’s Ben Caspit, sought to calm the media frenzy. “You can all relax,” wrote Caspit. “In the last two weeks, nothing new has happened with regards to an attack on Iran.

The Cabinet hasn’t convened, the Defense Minister hasn’t summoned the IDF general staff, and no new information has been received. Everything that is known today was also known two weeks and two months ago.”

Caspit suggested that the new “bomb Iran” talk wasn’t based on any qualitative shift in the nature of Iran’s nuclear work. The U.S. intelligence assessment until now has been that despite steadily accumulating the means to build nuclear weapons, Iran has not thus far moved to enrich uranium to weapons grade or to begin the process of actually building a bomb. Nor has it taken a strategic decision to do so as yet.

The problem is that the “red lines” adopted by Israel and the U.S. for triggering a military response are different: President Obama has vowed to take military action to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, whereas Israel has insisted that Iran can’t be allowed to maintain the capability to build such weapons — a technological capacity it essentially already has.

Despite this difference in perspective described by Karon, Netanyahu is depending on his allies in the U.S. to support him as he makes his demands on Obama during the politically sensitive final months of President Obama’s reelection campaign.

Should Obama be reelected, Netanyahu’s threat may prove to be a major misstep. A second term Obama would be free to proceed at his own pace to make his own demands on Israel. Assuming that is, Obama does not give in to the arrogance of Netanyahu’s demands, which appears unlikely, given the strong lead Obama currently has over his opponent.

Of course, anything could happen between now and November 6. Elections do have consequences.

The picture of Netanyahu at a cabinet meeting above, is a pool photo taken by Abir Sultan. It is from Reuters.

About James Wall

James M. Wall is currently a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Jim launched this new personal blog April 24, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years.
This entry was posted in Middle East, Middle East Politics, Netanyahu, Obama, Politics and Elections, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Israel Delivers “Or Else” Demands to Obama

  1. Carole Donnee says:

    Ewe….
    I am a simple Woman who is trying to pay attention but all I can see is if Isreal //Netanyahu declare it as written , this is the
    Start of wwIII . Really Benjamen? Can’t
    You wait till other matters are settled and then revisit? Why this time and in these words?
    Israel is seeming just as unrelenting as Iran
    And Syria. Who will bring Peace if not Israel??
    Please rethink your selves.
    Thank you.

  2. AWAD PAUL SIFRI says:

    Thanks, Jim, for putting it very clearly: Israel is arrogantly threatening the USA to do what Israel desires, regardless of consequences to the US security, National interests, and moral standing.

    Considering the fact that Israel owes its very existance and its survival for over 6 decades to solid US support, the attitude of Netanyahu is a tidal wave of Chutzpah and blatant ungratefulness.

    What is just as clear is that Israeli interests are NOT the same as US interests. They never were. It is mostly a concoction of pro-Israel lobbies and media, and Congressional “agents” of an alien country.

    US interests are to ensure oil production and oil flow in countries with friendly regimes AND “people”, as well as, through long-term lucrative economic and friendly cultural relations.

    On the other hand, Israel’s interests, as successive Israeli Administrations perceive them, are to occupy all of Palestine, permanently, and to assume the role of dominant regional superpower, supported and infused by Dollars and UN Veto’s of the world’s only superpower of the day (currently, the USA).

    If executed, the Israeli threat to strike Iran will drag the US in sand up to its neck and will make the US a blatantly clear, full-fledged enemy of the Arab people, for many decades to come. It will remove the fig leaf of any fictitious distinction between Israeli occupation and US occupation, which will then meld into one.

    Consequently, the flames of all styles of warfare will spread in the entire Middle East and will plunge the US and European economies in the worst depression ever experienced in the Western Hemisphere.

    Why all this?

    In order to appease and satisfy Israel’s Medieval goals to enslave another people, permanently, to expand its borders exponentially, and to maintain its monopoly over Nuclear power, other WMD’s, Blackmail power, and unstoppable hegemony over the entire region of the Middle East/North Africa.

    Like American Jewish author, Alfred M. Lillienthall, once asked in his book title: “What Price Israel?”

  3. John Remington Graham says:

    With all due respect, Obama does not have a strong lead over his opponent. The most accurate poll we have, judging by success in predictions since 2008, is Rasmussen who says that Romney and Obama are neck and neck, that the condition of the domestic economy will be decisive, and that Romney is a slight favorite. Most other polls are merely propaganda devices of our major news media taking orders from their masters on Wall Street. Least of all has Obama made any progress whatever in restraining Netanyahu. Ask George Mitchell. Consider Obama’s absurdly obsequious behavior during Netanyahu’s last visit to the White House. Romney is no better, because all American presidents and presidential candidates — Democrat and Republican alike — have been remarkably weak in dealing with Israel over many years. But Obama and Romney, weak sisters that both of them are, know that American public opinion will not tolerate another war in the Middle East, or more saber rattling against Iran. American Jews will not stand for it. AIPAC does not speak for them. Both Obama and Romney articulate servile encomiums about Israel, but both know that the United States are on the brink of bankruptcy, and that the United States cannot afford another war in the Middle East. So Netanyahu’s ultimatum will not be met, And he will not attack Iran, for both Obama and Romney, preoccupied with electioneering talk about our domestic economy, will have no time or inclination to support him, and such an adventure by the Zionist junta in Jerusalem, at this point in time, would earn Israel the permenant displeasure of the United States, which Israel cannot afford. The “Pearl Harbor” effect of 9/11 has worn off. The Israelis are attempting another diplomatic and political bluff to push the United States into another war in support of Likud aspiractions. The noteworthy reality is merely that Israel is trying to pull the same trick again, using their ties with American news media to press their point. The election of Romney will not mean that we are about to repeat August 1914. The reelection of Obama will not usher in an era of American dominance over Israel. Our destructive love affair with Israel is simply coming to an end. It’s about time. We have been taken on a ride long enough. — John Remington Graham of the Minnesota Bar (#3664X)

  4. Jim, thanks for this. I hope you are wrong. How many times does our President have to say “nothing is off the table”? How closely does US Middle East policy have to coincide with Israel’s policies?
    The reason Israel attacked Gaza (Operation Cast Iron) when it did, was because of the power vacuum in the US. Dubya was out. And Obama had not yet been inaugurated. No voice from the top to stop this insanity against the rebels in Gaza. Destruction. Beyond reasonable bounds. Civilians, schools, hospitals, homes. Destroyed.
    Obama must quietly say in no uncertain terms to our friend and ally: NO. NO. NO. Don’t do it. IF YOU DO, THERE WILL BE PENALTIES. There will be consequences. There will be a crisis in our relationships. Don’t do this, or ELSE.
    Why must we play this game? Brinkmanship.
    Bibi knows Barack cannot criticize him in this BEFORE the election. But it will backfire. The fire will back up on him and Israel, propelling Obama to another term. I’ll bet Bibi would really love that. And Obama has been his FRIEND. HIS FRIEND, not an enemy. Mercy. Have mercy Lord, in your justice. JRK

  5. More: Even the flawed NY Times columnist Roger Cohen in today’s Times, has practical reasons why he doesn’t think Bibi should NOT DO THIS: To whit:

    But a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran today would be disastrous. It unites Iran in fury; locks in the Islamic Republic for a generation; gives a substantial boost to the wobbling Assad regime in Syria; radicalizes the Arab world at a moment of delicate transition; ignites Hezbollah on the Lebanese border; boosts Hamas; endangers U.S. troops in the region; sparks terrorism; propels oil skyward; rocks a vulnerable global economy; triggers a possible regional war; offers a lifeline to Iran just as sanctions are biting; adds a never-to-be-forgotten Persian vendetta to the Arab vendetta against Israel; and may at best set back Iran’s nuclear ambitions a couple of years or at worst accelerate its program by prompting it to rush for a bomb and throw out International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.

    Such damage may not amount to an existential threat to Israel — the phrase is overused. It would be a devastating strategic error.

    Don’t do it, Bibi. [end quote]

    (JRK)

  6. Samuel Jones says:

    Iran? Iraq? My head is spinning from all the periods of deja vu. Washington’s farewell address becomes more prophetic everyday, while the sheer hypocrisy of those on the right (and within the Democratic Party), who wrap themselves in the American flag anytime the camera is on, is brought into stark relief.

  7. Urbane Peachey says:

    Thank you Jim as always. Here are several thoughts that could be developed into a major wave.

    l. Just because Prime Minister Ahmadinejad makes grave and horrible threats, does not translate into reality. Iran does not have the technical capability to carry out its threats. Iranian leaders know full well that
    if they carry out threats, Iranian infrastructure would be obliterated.

    2. Iran does NOT pose an existential threat to Israel, just because of the extremist rhetoric of Iranian leaders! Nor is the threat “existential just because Prime Minister Netanyahu says so. Extremist rhetoric is prominent in the language of the orient. East and West use language very differently, and for failure to comprehend that, we face further escalation in global conflict.

    3. We need a much stronger wave of protest against hostility over Iran
    and a much stronger wave that would include rather than exclude Iran in the
    community of nations. There are larger agendas than the debate over Iran’s
    nuclear ambitions, whether for peaceful or military use. Why is the voice of reason coming from people like Zbigniew Brzezinski and Ambassador Thomas Pickering et. al, not given full public view!

  8. Charlesvsmith says:

    I wish Obama cared for his country as much as Netnayahu does for his.

  9. John F. Kane says:

    Clear evidence once again for my belief that Israel under its present leadership is a rogue state and one of the greatest dangers to peace and justice in our world.

  10. Neferkheperre says:

    Who in Hell is Netanyahoo to dictate to US? Israel is our client state, not vice versa. Israel has acted arrogantly since Day One. Apparently Netanyahoo expects Obama’s reaction to be “Yassah mah Massah, yassah mah Massah!!!” After all, Yahweh said “Medammit, I said Promised Land, not Promised Continent!!” Likud needs to tone down.

  11. Pingback: Israel Delivers “Or Else” Demands to Obama | My Catbird Seat

  12. Misterioso says:

    Setting aside the fact that Iran has never threatened to attack Israel (Israel, however, has frequently threatened to attack Iran) and the lack of credible evidence that it is trying to develop nuclear weapons, why would Iran attack Israel if it had them? Apart from the horrific massive nuclear retaliation it would suffer, a nuclear strike on Israel by Iran would also result in the deaths of tens if not hundreds of thousands of Palestinians as well as Jewish Israelis and given the resulting radioactivity and prevailing winds, tens of thousands of Lebanese Shiite Muslims as well as Jordanians, etc., would perish. In short, for Iran to attack Israel with nuclear weapons would be self-defeating in the extreme.

    What nuclear armed Israel fears most is losing its status as the region’s invincible bully which has enabled it to maintain its belligerent, illegal and brutal occupation of Palestinian and other Arab territories while constructing illegal Jewish settlement/colonies and illegally confiscating land and water resources.

  13. Pingback: Israel Delivers “Or Else” Demands to Obama | My Catbird Seat | The Real Unemployment Statistics

  14. Misterioso says:

    http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/week-s-end/former-israeli-intelligence-chief-netanyahu-and-barak-dangerously-stoking-flames-of-war.premium-1.458941

    “Former Israeli intelligence chief: Netanyahu and Barak dangerously stoking flames of war.”

    “Maj. Gen. (res.) Uri Saguy, who was head of the IDF’s Operations Directorate during the first Lebanon war and MI chief from 1991 to 1995, decided this week to make his voice heard over what he calls ‘the purposely timed hysteria.’ ”

    By Amir Oren – August 17, 2012

  15. PHILABOB says:

    Unfortunately both Romney and Obama owe their political souls to Bibi and to the huge funding that comes from related resources in the US. It’s nice when the PA can pretend that they’re not being hurt by the occupying (Israeli) forces, but the truth, from my direct, personal experience, IS that PA houses are being demolished, access by children to their schools is being cut off, water and electric power are being compromised DAILY. Land for settlements IS being illegally taken from law-abiding PA citizens. ‘Or else’ is no way for any responsible international leader to behave.

  16. John Hauptman says:

    Imagine a Perfect World: Bibi sends the bombers towards Iran. Obama orders US jets on the carriers in the Persian Gulf to shoot them down before they reach Iranian territory. Simultaneously, Obama orders the Justice Department to investigate AIPAC as “an agent of a foreign power”. Then Obama coasts to re-election.

  17. Samia Khoury says:

    Indeed what audacity. But should this “or else” be a surprise when the child has been pampered by his God parents for sixty four years and getting away with all its tantrums and demand. You reap what you sow, but for the sake of the people of the US and the whole ME region, I hope for a change Mr. Obama will not cave in again.

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