Adrian Blomfield, Jerusalem correspondent for Britain’s Telegraph, reports that “Israel has refused to reassure President Barack Obama that it would warn him in advance of any pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear capabilities,” and that Obama “was rebuffed last month when he demanded” such a guarantee.
Blomfield says he has this dope from “insiders briefed on a top-secret meeting between America’s most senior defence chief and Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s hawkish prime minister….” He’s referring to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s visit to Israel last month, during which, in a “private meeting with Mr Netanyahu and the defence minister, Ehud Barak,” Panetta conveyed Obama’s “urgent” demand. Yet
the two Israelis were notably evasive in their response, according to sources both in Israel and the United States….
Alarmed by Mr Netanyahu’s noncommittal response, Mr Obama reportedly ordered the US intelligence services to step up monitoring of Israel to glean clues of its intentions.
The report meshes with Panetta’s not-so-veiled warning to Israel just before that visit to lay off Iran, and with his statement this week—albeit not explicitly directed at Israel—that an attack on Iran could have “unintended consequences…. It could have a serious impact in the region and it could have a serious impact on US forces in the region.”
The same message came through from Europe this week. French foreign minister Alain Juppe said an attack on Iranian’s nuclear facilities would “drag the world into an ‘uncontrollable spiral.’” In the wake of last week’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Iran’s nuclear progress—confirming all of Israel’s warnings over the years—EU foreign ministers “ruled out any military action for now.”
Juppe did say the EU would be “asking the European Investment Bank to freeze loans to Iran.” Meanwhile the EU foreign ministers “decided to wait till their next meeting on Dec 1., before taking further action.”
It somehow doesn’t have that ring of urgency.
And yet, as The Telegraph’s Blomfield also notes, “many in [Israel] believe time is running out.”
Blomfield quotes Ephraim Asculai, former IAEA official and an Israeli expert on Iran’s nuclear program, saying that “if the Iranian regime decides to do so, it can produce a nuclear explosive device within a year, plus or minus a few months.” There are also warnings that Iran could soon be transferring most of its nuclear production under a mountain near Qom, making it much harder—or impossible—to bomb from the air.
Is Israel, then, facing the threat essentially alone? If so, it would hardly be unprecedented. There’s an inglorious history of the United States and Europe leaving Israel to fend for itself against threats, sometimes even existential ones.
It happened in Israel’s 1948-1949 War for Independence, when it found itself embargoed by the West (with Britain aiding the Arab side) and had to turn to the Soviet bloc for arms. Just before the 1967 Six Day War, Israel’s “ally” France slapped an arms embargo on the region that was mainly aimed at Israel.
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