Washington "was convinced" that Israel was going to attack Iran's nuclear facilities in the spring, and when Israel did not, the administration felt it had been the victim of a "complete bluff," former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk told Army Radio on Thursday.
Indyk served as ambassador to Israel during the administration of then President Bill Clinton, and is currently serving as the foreign policy director at the Brookings Institution.
When asked whether official Israel had "lost its voice" with the U.S. administration, as supported by a recent remark by an unnamed U.S. official, who insisted that the administration was not "shattered" by the Israeli threat to attack Iran and that it had "learned to live with it,” Indyk replied that he thought it was a "classic case of crying wolf."
"The administration was convinced that Israel was going to attack in the spring. That was the official assessment, everyone ran to battle stations, mobilized, engaged with the Israelis, did whatever they could to calm them down and make it clear that the President [Barack Obama] was absolutely committed to Israel's security and to ensuring that Iran would not get nuclear weapons. That seemed to work fine. But after that, the administration concluded that Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and Defense Minister [Ehud] Barak were engaged in a complete bluff, and having succeeded in bluffing them, I think they were wary of being bluffed again," Indyk said.
"I think that's how they saw the latest round of talks, especially because it came right after a concerted effort with the visits by defense [officials], state [officials], the national security adviser and heavy deployment of U.S. military forces in the Gulf. Essentially, the U.S. had done everything it could to reassure Israel, the president doesn't have anything more in his quiver, no other arrow to shoot to reassure it. I think this time around they thought, 'Here we go again, there's nothing more we can do we'll just learn to live with it.'"
The former ambassador also stressed that Obama was serious about preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear capabilities. "It's not just about Israel's security for him, it's about the non-proliferation regime, preventing a nuclear arms race in the middle east, ensuring that a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran, does not cross the nuclear weapons threshold, which will cause the collapse of the whole regime. He actually really cares about it. Israelis don't seem to understand that," he said.
"He means what he says," Indyk reiterated.
Asked if he would recommend that Obama visit Jerusalem in an effort to calm Israeli fears over Iran, Indyk said it would be a useful move, but expressed doubt that Obama would do so ahead of the U.S. presidential elections in November.
"In this election campaign, a day spent on foreign policy is a day wasted," he said. "Obama has an election to face, he wants to get re-elected. So I'm not sure that spending time in Israel is high on the agenda."
Indyk added that perhaps Obama would meet with Netanyahu at the U.N. General Assembly in September, which would give him a chance to reassure the Israeli prime minister.