Tread Softly Israel for a Heavy Step May Be Your Undoing
Previously published on Nov 29, 2013
As the United States tries to seize upon a potential opportunity to address the Iranian nuclear crisis through diplomatic efforts with the more moderate Rouhani government, Israel hardens its position against any deal with the long-standing antagonist of the Middle East. For some, the mere fact that the US is willing to talk with Iran undermines the US-Israel partnership. Pundits have even gone so far as to say Israel's new best friend is French President Francois Hollande, due to his efforts to avert a bad deal over Iran's nuclear program.
Quite frankly, the United States is just trying to resolve an ongoing conflict in a very unstable region to help bring some stability and success to the Middle East. It is certainly fair to criticize the negotiation process if the results will not actually solve the underlying problem, but the US cannot be faulted for speaking with Iran as the world must make progress with Iran, eventually.
On the other hand, Israel also has a right to disagree with US policy and vice versa. In many ways, pundits like to frame the US-Israel relationship as one of lovers who are supposed to constantly agree with each. Because we dissented, Israel is flirting with France to bully the US into agreeing with its position. Like any romantic relationship, it is perfectively health for both parties to have their own views, unless one is truly the puppet of the other.
That said, Israel's ongoing threats to take military action must be heeded. Should it appear as though the world is nearing an agreement with Iran, which Israel does not like, the Netanyahu government may well take action, i.e. bomb nuclear sites in Iran, before it is "too late for action." In doing so, Israel may well start a war that could draw the US in some form of intervention, as Israel likely cannot finish a war without American support.
To be blunt, the American People do not want to go to war, thus the current environment makes it very unlikely that the American People would support Israel military action. If we are actually on the verge of a nuclear deal with Iran, America's broader regional and global interests would be severely undermined by supporting Israel's proactive strike. As such, any military intervention in support of Israel would have be secretive, unpopular, and a PR nightmare at a time when the Obama Administration cannot afford it.
Unfortunately, military action by Israel would probably force the US to distance ourselves from our close ally. Certainly, America does not want to do this, but US power is now predicated on our ability to balance our interests with the interests of as many countries as possible. If Israel attacks without a fully legitimized reason for doing so, i.e. a preemptive strike, it will put the US in a position where supporting Israel would severely undermine American interests.
Meanwhile, the disparaging rhetoric of pundits and people like Prime Minister Netanyahu accusing the Obama Administration of betraying Israel truly does undermine the US-Israel relationship. Either the US looks like the puppet of Israel or we anger pro-Israel supporters by refusing to cater to Israel interests. Besides, no one likes being told what to do by someone who is constantly stabbing them in the back, especially the US President. Consequently, it has to stop.
Furthermore, fervent supporters of Israel need to know when to deescalate their rhetoric as constant, overly aggressive reactions are costing them their legitimacy. Israel has legitimate concerns, but the legitimately of taking action against Iran hinges on a lack of nonviolent options. If the US and the rest of the world will not give Iran an honest chance to pursue peace when a potential opportunity arises, those who take military action against Iran become the aggressors. If Iran refuses to follow a reasonable course, military action by Israel and the US becomes more and more legitimate, as well as more and more likely.
What the US must avoid is a bad nuclear deal where fundamental Western and regional interests, including Israel's interests, are neglected and Iran is able to reach its goals. In short, Israel has the potential of making itself "the bad guy" by continuing to react to a potential nuclear deal with Iran in such a heavy handed manner while the world must be careful not to appease Iran as Iran cannot be allowed to have a nuclear weapon or continue its other rogue behaviors.