In a taped message to the Washington Institute for Near East policy, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu argued Friday for a better deal with Iran: “Countries around the world must have the courage and the resolve to hold out for a better deal, one that will actually do the job of blocking Iran’s path to the bomb. Now, there are those who say that the Lausanne framework will make Israel safer. As the prime minister of Israel, I can tell you categorically: This deal will endanger Israel, big time.”
Most interesting, however, was the degree to which he aligned Israel’s interests with those of its neighboring Sunni rulers: “But it’s not just Israel that will be endangered. The Middle East and the entire world will be threatened.” And even more directly Netanyahu argued:
Yet, Iran doesn’t just talk the talk, it walks the walk. It builds up terrorist bases along three of Israel’s borders: in Lebanon and Gaza and now on the Syrian Golan. It arms terrorists with thousands of rockets and missiles to be fired at our citizens.
Israel simply cannot afford to let Iran obtain the capability to follow through on its genocidal designs. The international community cannot let Iran’s aggression in the region — in Lebanon, in Iraq, in Syria, in Yemen and elsewhere — continue under the protection of an Iranian nuclear umbrella. And the international community cannot afford to let the planet’s foremost sponsor of terrorism have nuclear capabilities with which to terrorize the entire world.
But once again, President Obama may intervene to Israel’s detriment. Having allowed both Iran and the Islamic State to run rampant throughout the region and having begun closing in on a nuclear deal with Iran that will, as Netanyahu says, put Arab states in peril, Obama is going to fix all this. How? Making it up to the Arabs by dangling weapons and defense pacts to calm their fears: “Administration officials said Mr. Obama had not settled on what to offer but that there were several possible options, most of them difficult to pull off. A security treaty with Saudi Arabia and the other countries is unlikely because that would have to be ratified by Congress and would probably run into opposition from Israel and its supporters on Capitol Hill.”
Even the most trusting allies — and these allies have learned not to rely on this president’s words — would hardly be mollified by a sketchy arrangement of the type Obama is considering (“the administration is discussing offering a looser, less-binding defense pact. In the deal envisioned, American officials would put in writing, but not send to Congress, language agreeing to the defense of Arab allies if they come under attack from outside forces. Such a pact would not apply if the governments came under attack from political opponents within their own countries”). By now it must be patently obvious that Obama’s word (The red line in Syria? Defense of Ukraine?) means virtually nothing. So why would the Arab states be mollified? If Ukraine taught the world anything, it is not to trade nuclear weapons for U.S. promises of security.
In addition, tossing arms throughout the region creates the risk of weapons falling into enemy hands (wasn’t that one excuse for not arming Syrian rebels?), spurring more regional violence and eroding Israel’s defensive edge. (One wonders if Ukraine is noticing the administration’s willingness to scatter offensive weaponry while denying it the means to defend itself after the U.S. reneged on its promise to defend Ukraine sovereignty.) As the New York Times reports, “Increased weapons sales could help, but there is a major roadblock: maintaining Israel’s military edge. The United States has long put restrictions on the types of weapons that American defense firms can sell to Arab nations, which are meant to ensure that Israel keeps a military advantage against its adversaries in the region. That is why the administration has so far not allowed Lockheed Martin to sell the F-35 fighter jet, considered to be the jewel of America’s future arsenal of weapons, to Arab countries. The plane, the world’s most expensive weapons project, has stealth abilities and has been approved for sale to Israel.” Upgrading weapons sales to countries in a region where we have seen revolutions and violence is sure to create a new wedge issue between Israel and the Arab states. Moreover, Congress is not likely to go along anyway with increasing the weaponry of Arab states.
So because Obama did not do his job, did not confront Iranian ambition, would not knock out Tehran’s junior partner in Damascus, refused to put a sufficient contingent of Americans on the ground to assist Iraq (and displace Iran) and now is crumbling on every position in nuclear talks, he is going to ensnare the United States in alliances (What — to squelch a democratic uprising in a Gulf state?) and multiply the firepower in the region, all of which imperils Israel’s security and disrupts the new-found Sunni-Israel commonality of interests. Obama is either deeply committed to damaging Israeli security or is desperate — running hither and yon to fix a disastrous foreign policy, making new problems with non-solutions to old one. (The options are not mutually exclusive.)
In any event, his scramble to assuage Arab allies may still not stave off a nuclear arms race in the region. Does Hillary Clinton approve of all this? When she stops hiding from the press, maybe we will find out.