The internal logic of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's U.N. General Assembly address was constructed in accordance with the domino model. Netanyahu's practical goal was to preserve and strengthen the economic sanctions on Iran, as part of the diplomatic path U.S. President Barack Obama has chosen. Netanyahu has accepted the diplomatic path with skepticism, almost without a choice. The speech, in which each word was carefully chosen, was based on the conclusions from previous rounds of the campaign to keep Iran from going nuclear.
Netanyahu, by waving the sword of a potential Israeli strike, has played a key role in getting Obama to commit to preventing a nuclear Iran and in spurring the world to impose sanctions on Iran. But the Israeli military option -- built on a "poker game" and subject to debate by foreign experts as to whether Israel truly planned to attack -- unraveled after the statements made by Meir Dagan and Yuval Diskin. Even the thin claim of supporters of former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi -- that Ashkenazi's dispute with former Defense Minister Ehud Barak was based on differences over Iran -- contributed to weakening the Israeli military option.
In a bid to prevent any easing of sanctions on Iran during negotiations, even as part of an interim deal between Washington and Tehran, Netanyahu reiterated the Israeli military option on Tuesday in unequivocal language. If the worst happens, Israel will act alone. If this threat is taken seriously in Western capitals, it will help delay the breaking apart of sanctions. This is the domino, cube after cube.
But on this point, there was hidden sophistication, something that came up in a conversation I had on Tuesday night with an expert on the issue. While Netanyahu did reiterate the military option out loud, there was a fine distinction. This time, he did not threaten to attack if Iran continues uranium enrichment or becomes a "nuclear threshold state." Rather, he adopted the American wording that he argued against for the past four years: Military action will be conducted only if Iran develops a nuclear weapon, not before. This slight nuance must have pleased Washington.
Netanyahu sounded firm, but also cautious, about the military option. His demand for a complete dismantlement of Iran's nuclear program, rather than drawing another red line based on enrichment, was a wise move. However, it does exact a price from Israel. Ultimately, no Israeli prime minister wants to act alone to defend the world from Iran, but Netanyahu pledged to do so if necessary.
It is likely that Obama, watching Netanyahu's speech, could accept almost every sentence in it (the demand for the complete dismantlement of Iran's military nuclear program and opposition to interim deals that would ease sanctions without removing the Iranian nuclear threat). Despite not containing any gesture toward Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, the U.S. can live with the speech's content, even if it was not music to its ears.
So a quick summary: The demand is that Iran receive everything in exchange for everything -- the complete dismantlement of the nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of all sanctions. The speech called for more economic pressure on Iran and the renewal of the military option, but it also moved closer to the American point of view. But expect there to be differences between friends on the way toward the goal.