Israelis unsure they can trust US to stop Iran

Sunday, August 12, 2012 |  Ryan Jones

Headline articles in Israeli newspapers and prime-time broadcasts on television news revealed that Israelis are unsure they can trust US President Barack Obama - or any American leader, for that matter - to keep his word to prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb.

Writing for the left-wing newspaper Ha'aretz, senior military analyst Ari Shavit interviewed an unnamed "senior decision maker" who insisted that Israel cannot and should not rely on America to stop Iran's defiant quest for nuclear weapons.

"In theory, [the Americans] could have easily bridged the gap [between international demands and Iran's behavior]," said the source. "They [the Americans] could have firmly threatened to destroy Iran's nuclear program if it was still operational by next spring."

Unfortunately, as the source explained, Obama cannot make such a forward-looking commitment because he doesn't even know if he will still be president by that time. "And if Mitt Romney is elected, history has shown that a president will not take such drastic action during his first year in office."

"As such," the source seemingly lamented, "the expectations placed on American security guarantees are not serious."

Numerous media analysts and not a few senior Knesset members later revealed that Shavit's source was none other than Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who went on to tell the reporter that the "Iran nuclear threat is bigger than the threat Israel faced before the Six Day War," when Israel found itself forced to launch a preemptive strike.

Israel's largest daily newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, reported that Barak had twice in the past few weeks called a gathering of Israel's top generals and intelligence officers to convince them of the necessity to strike Iran now.

According to the newspaper, many of the generals were reluctant to support Barak's position, primarily because they did not believe Israel had the capability to set back Iran's nuclear program in any significant way.

But Barak disagreed, insisting that Israel could delay Iran's progress long enough for the current regime to fall, or for the international community to become more serious about its own efforts to halt Iran's nuclear program.

Polls conducted by all of Israel's major newspapers showed the public remains divided over whether to strike Iran on our own, wait for American backing, or simply allow the US to handle the job on its own. However, most Israelis are certain that a nuclear-armed Iran represents one of the most serious threats to Israel's modern existence as a nation-state.

In its Friday news broadcast Israel's Channel 2 also touched on the tricky topic of relying of American security guarantees when dealing with such threats. During the segment, Channel 2 showed footage of then-US President George W. Bush firmly declaring - as Obama has done with Iran - that America would never allow North Korea to build a nuclear bomb.

The message was clear: Rogue nations like Iran have become convinced that American threats have no teeth, and therefore Israel cannot put any real stock in words of encouragement and security guarantees from Washington.

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