This is the situation: The diplomatic temperature between the U.S. and Israel has gone up. It is hotter than normal for this time of year. Meanwhile, inside Israel, the weather is downright stormy. In the eye of the storm stands Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
He was greeted at the weekend with a claim by attorney Dov Weisglass, who spoke with Yedioth Ahronoth ahead of the release of his memoirs, that former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would not have attacked Iran. Weisglass is correct, responded Netanyahu's political supporters. After all, in 2005, Sharon didn't even attack the single nuclear facility in Iran, which would have nipped the ayatollahs' nuclear venture in the bud.
There are other former holders of office who need to be answered. They have argued that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are "messianic" and disconnected from reality. Hysterical articles have been written against an Israeli attack. Now, however, the International Atomic Energy Agency has come out with a new report proving that the ones who were delusional and "messianic" were former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the former heads of Israel's defense establishment, who argued there was time and that an Israeli decision on the matter would not be required in the near future.
The IAEA points to Iran's lightning progress and American powerlessness. Netanyahu tried using the report to bridge the gap with U.S. President Barack Obama by getting him to exchange exclamation marks for question marks in private talks and in public comments, similar to what happened with Mike Rogers, the Chairman of the House of Representative's Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Rogers did not claim that Obama has abandoned the fight against a nuclear Iran, but asked where the Americans feel the point of no return is, which would make Iran dangerous and obligate a military response on its part. In this regard, Rogers wondered why the administration was silent toward Iran but increasingly voicing its reservations in regard to Israel.
The administration saw Rogers' comments as harmful to the president in favor of his presidential rival, Mitt Romney.
It is possible that Romney's extreme statement that Obama has thrown Israel under the bus is a detrimental exaggeration. It’s not enough that Netanyahu treated Romney the same way that Barak treated presidential hopeful Obama in 2008. Greater Israeli caution is required, especially because Netanyahu plans to speak before the U.N. General Assembly prior to the U.S. elections in November to convince the public — Democrats and Republicans — to wake up to the dangers posed by a nuclear Iran, which Obama will not appreciate. Israel should pay more respect to the current administration, because there is a chance it will be the next one as well.
But the bottom line is that Netanyahu is presenting the problem in the form of a fundamental question: It's true that America is allowed to say "not now, later," but it must clarify when "later" is, where the red line is, and when it will consider the Iranian venture as tantamount to having a nuclear weapon. Netanyahu is asking and Obama is not answering.
If the U.S. is not interested in upholding its obligations, Israel will regretfully need to find its own, separate path.
Over the past few days, Netanyahu has sounded like someone declaring that he has liberated himelf from dependence on foreign patrons for the protection of the people of Israel.
Even a clear rival such as Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz shared similar sentiment years ago, when he said that the Jews came to Israel not to live under the auspices of others, but to "take our fate into our own hands."