Friday, March 16, 2012

Netanyahu is Preparing Israeli Public Opinion for a War on Iran

In response to Netanyahu's AIPAC speech, Haaretz's editor-in-chief says that what looks like a preparation for war, acts like a preparation for war, and quacks like a preparation for war, is a preparation for war.

Since his return from Washington, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has mainly been preoccupied with one thing: Preparing public opinion for war against Iran.

Netanyahu is attempting to convince the Israeli public that the Iranian threat is a tangible and existential one, and that there is only one effective way to stop it and prevent a "second Holocaust": An Israeli military attack on Iran's nuclear infrastructure, which is buried deep underground.

In his speech before the Knesset on Wednesday, Netanyahu urged his colleagues to reject claims that Israel is too weak to go it alone in a war against a regional power such as Iran and therefore needs to rely on the United States, which has much greater military capabilities, to do the job and remove the threat.

According to polls published last week, this is the position of most of the Israeli public, which supports a U.S. strike on Iran, but is wary of sending the IDF to the task without the backing of the friendly superpower.

Netanyahu presented three examples in which his predecessors broke the American directive and made crucial decisions regarding the future of Israel: the declaration of independence in 1948, starting the Six Day War in 1967 and the bombing of the nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981.

The lesson was clear: Just as David Ben-Gurion, Levi Eshkol and Menachem Begin said "no" to the White House, Netanyahu also needs not be alarmed by President Obama's opposition to an attack on Iran. Netanyahu believes that, as in the previous incidents, the U.S. may grumble at first, but will then quickly adopt the Israeli position and provide Israel with support and backing in the international community.

If Netanyahu had submitted his speech as a term paper to his father the history professor, he would have received a very poor grade. In 1948, the U.S. State Department, headed by George Marshall, opposed the declaration of independence and supported a United Nations trusteeship for Palestine. But President Truman had other considerations.

Like Obama today, Truman was also a democratic president contending for his reelection, who needed the support of the Jewish voters and donors. Under those circumstances, Truman rejected Marshall's advice, and listened to his political adviser Clark Clifford, who pressured him to recognize the Zionist state. And indeed, Truman sent a telegram with an official recognition of Israel just 11 minutes after Ben-Gurion finished reading the Scroll of Independence. The U.S. opposition to the recognition of Israel was halted at the desk of the president, who repelled the explanations by the Secretary of State and the "Arabists" in his office.

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