Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. This piece is reprinted with permission and can be found on Abrams' blog "Pressure Points" here.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Washington last week and spoke at the U.N. General Assembly in New York. I did not speak with him during this visit. The following is a guess about what he is thinking:
I'm glad to be home but that was a terrific trip. I liked my speech -- wolf in wolf's clothing, wolf in sheep's clothing, all that was better this time than the visual from my 2012 speech with that little bomb. Of course I liked that speech too (and nobody even noticed that the bomb drawing was exactly the same one in those Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that caused riots!)
Speaking at the U.N. General Assembly is like addressing a mixed crowd -- half Nazis and half mummies. But the real audience outside got the point: Iran can't have nukes, no way, no how. Dunno about Obama. Good meeting, hours long; he treats me better now than before his election, which is weird. The thought struck me that he knows these talks with Iran may fail, and if they do he's going to want me to hit Iran. He doesn't want to do it and he doesn't want them to get nukes; he has said they can't so many times that he'd look like an idiot. So in the end he may turn to me, and back me.
Maybe. Maybe not. I mean, this Syria thing was bizarre. Even Hillary and John wanted him to do more, in 2012 and this year, and he just won't do a damn thing. And throwing the decision to Congress without even consulting Biden and Kerry -- wow, what an insult to them, with 60 years in the Senate between them! I heard he didn't even consult Chuck Schumer about whether they had the votes. I mean, whatever his staff tells him, he isn't Albert Einstein.
So maybe the guy will never go beyond drones. In which case, I am his escape route. Maybe the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will save us all, and reject any deal -- no matter how good -- with the Great Satan. But I'm scared stiff about these negotiations. Those Persians are smart as hell; if we could team up we'd run the whole Middle East. I hope I live to see the Islamic republic fall. But does Obama really think Wendy Sherman and John Kerry will outsmart them? Has he read the history of how North Korea hornswoggled the Americans?
So the real question is, will he accept some crappy deal? That's what gives me nightmares. I've got nothing to worry about at home. There's no one like Rabin or Sharon to run against me, and people will back an attack on Iran. The talks with the Palestinians can go on forever, whatever Kerry wants, but Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] is about as likely to sign a deal now as he himself was in 2008 or Arafat was with Clinton. Thank God the army is back in charge in Egypt and doing something Mubarak never did -- really crushing the Muslim Brotherhood. The Americans are suspending aid! Hell, they should be doubling it, as I told Obama. My friend King Abdullah in Jordan is okay, too; people there realize the world is a tough place and while he may not be his father, life would be a lot worse without him. It isn't a choice between the king and paradise; it's a choice between the king and disorder, violence, disaster, the Brotherhood.
Obama. Weird guy. Smart, but man, they're all smart -- Bush and Blair and Clinton and Sarkozy and Putin. He's no standout. His Syria play was bush league. He's got no one around like a Cheney or Jim Baker, just acolytes. And those negotiations! I'm off to Europe to stiffen the spines of those creeps, though I have to admit the French are really smart: They get it all and are as worried about Obama as I am. Buying a crummy deal with Iran that just gains him three years is his agenda, I think. What happens afterward he can blame on his successor. ("They didn't get nukes on my watch!") That's why I talked to all those Republicans, hoping they won't lift sanctions for Obama's fake deal.
What a mess. Still, they don't have nukes yet and if I end up striking them I'll be a hero. Amazing, isn't it? We're 6 million Jews here in this tiny little place. Yet the whole world expects us to handle Iran with its 76 million, and stabilize Jordan, and Sinai, and help Egypt, and confront Hezbollah. And we may just do it. I've never been a religious guy, not really, but it's hard to resist praying for help and wondering if God
is not really in this drama.
From "Pressure Points" by Elliott Abrams. Reprinted with permission from the Council on Foreign Relations.