Waiting for Obama. And Waiting. And Waiting...
Speculation simmers as to how and when Israel may launch a preemptive attack against Iran's nuclear-genocide facilities. But as Iran races toward nuclear capability, a couple of things are becoming clear: first, whatever else Israel may have up its resourceful sleeve, the window in which Israel by itself is capable of inflicting serious damage in conventional air strikes is closing fast; and second, once that window closes, relying on a second-term Obama administration to take out Iranian nukes would be a grave mistake for Israel.
President Obama's administration strongly opposes an Israeli strike, expressing more alarm at the prospect of Israeli military action than at the prospect of nuclear jihad. To help persuade Israel to hold back, Obama has stated that he will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons (though nuclear capability in the hands of terror-supporting ayatollahs seems OK with him), that he "has Israel's back," and that "no options are off the table," suggesting that the U.S. will handle the situation militarily when the time comes.
Israel should feel no reassurance form such vague promises.
First, Obama's toothless policy to stop Iranian nuclear development is perhaps best summed up by the Robin Williams's line describing famously unarmed British police confronting someone committing a crime: "Stop! Or I shall say 'stop' again!"
Yes, Obama talks tough: "If you [Iran] don't change your behavior, then there will be dire consequences." "We will still hold the door open [for negotiations], but we also have made it clear that we will take actions, as I have said time and time again, crippling actions." Iran is on "a path that is going to lead to confrontation." Obama demanded "to see serious movement on the part of Iranians. ... We're not going to have talks forever."
Impressed? Consider that those statements were from 2009. Even when, with great fanfare, Obama finally imposed some economic sanctions, he simultaneously watered them down by dispensing waivers to Iran's major trading partners. In fact, U.S. government data shows that American exports to Iran increased by 33% this year.
Obama has no problem making repeated threats; it's the carrying out of the threats that eludes him. And it's only the perceived willingness to carry out a threat that gives any threat credibility. There is something very wrong when Iranian threats to "wipe Israel off the map" are more credible than the threats of an American president to eliminate that possibility.
Iranian centrifuges still spin, unhindered by Obama's words. The time for "dire consequences" and "crippling actions" never comes.
Second, when it comes to foreign policy, Obama never takes on anything hard. He might pull the rug out from under allies like the Czechs and Poles, and ostentatiously create "daylight" between America and embattled Israel, yet he caves before America's adversaries, marching to every one of Vladimir Putin's orders to reduce American forces or not build missile defenses -- and is caught over an open microphone secretly promising the Russians more post-election concessions. He is paralyzed in the face of Chinese regional belligerence; he stands by as the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, and Iranian proxies seize power and wreak havoc all over the Middle East.
Is there another recent administration that could have championed "leading from behind"? That would be following the Europeans -- the Europeans! -- in sanctioning Iran? That after a year of massacres by Syrian "reformer" Bashar al-Assad, would still not have any semblance of a policy? That, as the Mideast boils, would still be voting "present"?
Sure, Obama can take charge -- but only against imagined "enemies." He blames recent Mideast embassy sieges on some unseen video, chastising American voices of intolerance -- but not condemning the role of radical Islam. He publicly scolds Israel for building homes in its own capital but is silent in the face of Palestinian rockets, terror, and incitement. He mocks his domestic political opponents but won't dare offend America's opponents.
Obama recoils from real confrontation. Rather than facing threats directly, he prefers political spin to explain away the need to act -- note the shifting excuses for the Benghazi fiasco. Whatever he means by "having Israel's back," what are the chances that he would actually pre-emptively attack Iran, risking all kinds of retaliatory attacks against American targets?
Third, if Obama has been so heavy-handed in dealing with Israel up until now, while Israel still ostensibly maintains the ability to cripple Iran's nuclear development, what will he demand as the price of American action when he alone holds Israel's security in his hands?
We've seen how this administration is capable of pressuring Israel. PM Netanyahu didn't just wake up one day in 2009 and decide to freeze settlements, or suddenly come to believe in creating a new Palestinian state he had forever opposed. We don't know precisely what Obama held over his head to make Netanyahu take positions contrary to all he previously advocated and threaten his ability to maintain a governing coalition, but we have a pretty good idea what might have been included. Did Obama threaten to cut back Israel's access to security and intelligence information, or to share sensitive information about Israel with other countries? To curtail arms sales to Israel, or allow more advanced weaponry into the hands of Israel's enemies? To reduce America's diplomatic protection of Israel in forums such as the U.N. Security Council, or allow international boycotts of Israel to proceed?
Might his new demands include wish-list items like Israeli retreat to the suicidal pre-1967 borders? Israel's signing the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, revealing its nuclear secrets and allowing international inspections? Re-dividing Jerusalem, thereby placing Judaism's holiest places under Muslim custody?
Why not? What's to stop him? Whatever Obama demands, Israel will be in no position to resist. If the alternative is the possible nuclear annihilation of the State of Israel, what option would any Israeli government have but to succumb?
Israel will wait a long time, and pay an extraordinary price, before President Obama ever rides to the rescue.
Abe Katsman is an American attorney and political commentator living in Jerusalem. He serves as counsel to Republicans Abroad Israel.