The focus in Israel this week has shifted from Tehran’s hostility to Washington’s. As it is, many Israelis are terrified that a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities will unleash a massive, perhaps radioactive, counter-attack; so it doesn’t take much to persuade them to listen to those politicians, academics, members of the media, and military experts who claim that the air force is either incapable of carrying out such an operation or that the government cannot take any step without the explicit consent and approval of the White House.
It is a case of the fearful looking to the fear-mongers for guidance. Indeed, it is not Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is instilling the terror, but his opponents. For what he has been saying is that a nuclear Iran would constitute a far greater danger to Israelis than an attempt to destroy, or at least set back, the pernicious program.
That he has been talking about this often and openly — something which is uncharacteristic of covert Israeli missions — has led some to assume he is merely posturing, and others to believe that he is laying the groundwork for getting the Americans on board.
Well, if the latter is his aim, it sure doesn’t seem to be working. If anything, the Obama administration is growing increasingly impatient with Netanyahu, insisting that he not jump the gun, literally or figuratively. Even worse, the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, stated outright that he doesn’t want any part of a potential Israeli strike.
But the most disconcerting of all is the report issued by the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth on Monday, according to which the U.S. sent a message to the Iranian regime, via European diplomats, asking that Tehran not attack any American interests in the Persian Gulf in the event of an Israeli military operation.
Officials in Washington have denied this report. But the fact that it sounded plausible enough to print in the first place just goes to show how low U.S.-Israel relations have sunk. And the greater the anti-Western forces in the Middle East and the rest of the world, the colder the shoulder U.S. President Barack Obama extends to Netanyahu.
Meanwhile, the “leader from behind” his desk in the Oval Office is giving a warm welcome to Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.
Morsi, by the way, just came back from a little trip to Tehran to address the Non-Aligned Movement summit. While there, he caused a little stir among the Shiites by taking a pro-Sunni line on Syria. So “shocking” was his nerve to compare the uprisings against President Bashar al-Assad to the revolutions across the Middle East — including the one that ushered him and his Muslim Brotherhood boys to power — that the simultaneous Arabic-Farsi translator purposely replaced the word “Syria” with the word “Bahrain.”
Still, enough people in the audience got wind of the real words in the Egyptian president’s speech. Morsi, as a result, isn’t likely to be receiving any invitations from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his mullahs any time soon. But not to worry; Obama will be more than happy to host him. In fact, according to The New York Times' Steven Lee Myers, the U.S. administration is even taking time out of its busy campaign schedule to “bolster Egypt’s transition to democracy.”
In addition to relieving $1 billion of Egypt’s debt, it is supporting a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, $375 million in loan guarantees for American financiers who invest in Egypt, and $60 million for Egyptian businesses.
“American officials say they have been surprised by how open Mr. Morsi and his advisers have been to economic reforms, with a sharp focus on creating jobs,” writes Myers. “’They [the Muslim Brotherhood] sound like Republicans half the time.’”
Luckily, the Democrats are tolerant enough not to hold that against the Muslim Brotherhood. On the contrary, Undersecretary of State for Economic Affairs Robert D. Hormats “lavished praised on Mr. Morsi’s early stewardship. ‘The groundwork has been set with a new political leadership, a new level of energy and new opportunities to reform,’ he said in Cairo on Wednesday.”
Well, let’s take a look at one of Morsi’s recent reforms: a ban on demonstrating against him. In the lead-up to the Aug. 24 protest against his having wrested power from the military and taken it all for himself, the new president knew he had to nip such insubordination in the bud. So he got a prominent cleric and member of the Al-Azhar University Fatwa Committee, Hashem Islam, to issue an Islamic decree to suit this purpose.
“The legitimate president is Dr. Mohammed Morsi, and anyone who goes out [to protest] on Aug. 24 will be revolting against the Jan. 25 revolution, and will be committing the crimes of hiraba [piracy or unlawful warfare] and high treason against the country, against Allah, against his messenger, and against the believers,” the decree said, as translated by MEMRI. “Therefore, I convey the following fatwa [religious ruling] to the Egyptian people: Confront these people, and if they fight you, fight them. Oh, people of Egypt, confront these people, and if they fight you, fight them. If some of you are killed by them, you will go to paradise, and if you kill them, no 'blood money' will be warranted, because their killing is permissible. Allah's mercy and blessings upon you.”
If Egypt under Morsi is what the Obama administration considers a country transitioning to democracy, and Israel under Netanyahu is what the Obama administration considers a country too easy on the trigger, then heaven help us all. And a special prayer for a Mitt Romney victory.
Ruthie Blum is the author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring,’” now available on Amazon and in bookstores in Europe and North America.