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The Netanyahu-Obama Divide

The ideological divide between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama is unbridgeable. It cannot be papered-over by photo-opportunities, smiles and warm hospitality.

On the other hand, the worldview expressed by Netanyahu during his recent visit to the USA is consistent with the majority of Americans and their representatives at the US House of Representatives and US Senate.

According to a February 12, 2012 Pew Research Center poll, Americans support employing military force to prevent Iran from getting nukes by a margin of 58%:30%. 12% are undecided.  39%:5% want the US to support a potential Israeli military preemption to prevent Iran from becoming nuclear, while 51% want the US to remain neutral. These opinions have been consistent since October, 2009. A majority of Americans – 64%:21% – maintain that tougher sanctions will not be effective in preventing Iran’s nuclear drive. Most Democrats, Independents and Republicans concur that even tougher sanctions are ineffective.

A March 3, 2011 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll – conducted by Democrat Peter Hart and Republican Bill McInturff – documents a 52%:40% majority of Americans supporting military action to destroy Iran’s capability to develop nuclear weapons. According to a February 2, 2012 Pulse Opinion Research poll, conducted for “The (Capitol) Hill” newspaper, likely voters support the use of military force – 49%:31% – to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. A January 19, 2012 Rasmussen Report shows that 63% of likely voters believe that sanctions are unlikely to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons development.

The aforementioned polls reaffirm that the US is a center-right nation, consistent with polls which document that conservatives (40%) and moderates (40%) outnumber liberals (20%).

Apparently, Netanyahu was not able to convince Obama that:

*Sanctions – which have been undermined by Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Turkish non compliance – will not prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.  Forty years of sanctions did not prevent the nuclearization of North Korea, and thirty three years of sanctions against Iran have provided Teheran with additional time to develop/acquire nuclear capabilities.

*The US is the prime target for Iran’s nuclear weapons, as it is for Al Qaeda terrorism. Iran develops its super-capability (nuclear weapons) in order attain its super-goal (domination of the Gulf), and remove the super-obstacle (US military presence). Israel is a secondary target for Iran.

*Vital US interests are at stake. A nuclear Iran would accelerate nuclear proliferation among anti-US regimes in the Mid-East and beyond, would cause a meltdown of pro-US regimes in the Gulf, would disrupt the supply of oil with devastating implications for the price at the pump and on unemployment, could transfer nuclear systems to its beachheads in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Mexico, and would bolster global Islamic terrorism and sleepers cells in the US and Canada.

*The cost of non-preemption (a nuclear confrontation) would dwarf the cost of preemption.

The Netanyahu-Obama summit highlighted the clash of their respective ideologies, which was the background for Netanyahu’s speech at the AIPAC Conference.

While Obama adheres to long-term engagement with rogue regimes – through diplomacy and sanctions – Netanyahu believes that long-term engagement is perceived by rogue regimes as hesitation and vacillation, thus fueling radicalism, violence and instability.

While Obama prefers a domestically-driven regime-change in Iran over a military preemption, Netanyahu has concluded that a prerequisite for regime-change is a surgical non-occupation, no-boots-on-the-ground military preemption, which would provide the required tailwind for the domestic opposition.

While Obama refers to recent developments on the Arab Street as the Arab Spring, which would, supposedly, moderate the Mid-East and could bring down the Ayatollahs regime, Netanyahu observes a tectonic, stormy Arab Winter, which will add fuel to the burning Mid-East.

While Obama highlights multilateralism, and considers the UN as a preferred quarterback of international relations, Netanyahu is aware that the UN is a hostile arena for the Free World.  He is convinced that US unilateralism is essential to global sanity, based on US moral and strategic exceptionalism.

While Obama dismisses the notion of trans-national Islamic and Jihadist terrorism, Netanyahu recognizes the global nature of Islamic terrorism, with Iran as one of its quarterbacks.

While Obama considers the Palestinian issue to be the root cause of Mid-East turbulence, the crown jewel of Arab policy-making and the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Netanyahu is aware that the Palestinian issue is a derivative of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and a secondary/tertiary factor in shaping the Mid-East.

In order to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear capabilities, President Obama will have to amend his worldview.  Otherwise, Netanyahu will have to demonstrate the principle and value-driven tenacity and steadfastness of former Israeli Prime Ministers Ben Gurion, Eshkol, Golda Meir, Begin and Shamir, who founded the Jewish State, and catapulted it to dramatic achievements, through the defiance of US and global political correctness.


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Open letter to Prime Minister Bennett ahead of visit to USA

(Hebrew edition in “Israel Hayom,” Israel’s largest circulation daily)

During your first official visit to Washington, DC, you’ll have to choose between two options:

*Blurring your deeply-rooted, assertive Israeli positions on the future of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), which would be welcome by the Biden Administration, yielding to short-term political convenience and popularity inside the beltway;


*Tenaciously advocating your deeply-rooted, principle-driven positions, which would underscore a profound disagreement with the Biden Administration and the “elite” US media, while granting you and Israel long-term strategic respect, as demonstrated by some of your predecessors.

For example, the late Prime Minister Shamir honed the second option, bluntly introduced his assertive Israeli positions on Judea and Samaria, rebuffed heavy US pressure – including a mudslinging campaign by President Bush and Secretary of State Baker – suffered a popularity setback, but produced unprecedented expansion of US-Israel strategic cooperation. When it comes to facing the intensified threats of rogue regimes and Islamic terrorism, the US prefers principle-driven, reliable, patriotic, pressure-defying partners, irrespective of disagreements on the Palestinian issue.

Assuming that you shall not budge on the historical and national security centrality of Judea and Samaria, it behooves you to highlight the following matters during your meetings with President Biden, Secretary of State Blinken, National Security Advisor Sullivan, Secretary of Defense Austin and Congressional leaders (especially the members of the Appropriations Committees):

  1. The 1,400-year-old track record of the stormy, unpredictable, violent and anti-“infidel” Middle East, which has yet to experience intra-Arab peaceful-coexistence, along with the 100-year-old Palestinian track record (including the systematic collaboration with anti-US entities, hate-education and anti-Arab and anti-Jewish terrorism) demonstrates that the proposed Palestinian state would be a Mini-Afghanistan or a Mega-Gaza on the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria.

It would dominate 80% of Israel’s population and infrastructures in the 9-15-mile sliver between Judea and Samaria and the Mediterranean, which is shorter than the distance between RFK Stadium and the Kennedy Center.

Thus, a Palestinian state would pose a clear and present existential threat to Israel; and therefore, Israel’s control of the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria is a prerequisite for its survival.

  1. The proposed Palestinian state would undermine US interests, as concluded from the Palestinian intra-Arab track record, which has transformed the Palestinians into a role-model of intra-Arab subversion, terrorism and ingratitude. Arabs are aware that a Palestinian state would add fuel to the Middle East fire, teaming up with their enemies (e.g., Iran’s Ayatollahs, the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey’s Erdogan) and providing a strategic foothold to Russia and China. Consequently, Arabs shower Palestinians with favorable talk, but with cold and negative walk.

Hence, during the October, 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty ceremony, Jordan’s military leaders asserted to their Israeli colleagues that a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River would doom the pro-US Hashemite regime east of the River, and lead, subsequently, to the toppling of all pro-US Arab Peninsula regimes.

  1. There is no foundation for the contention that Israel’s retreat from the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria – which are the cradle of Jewish history, religion and culture – is required in order to sustain Israel’s Jewish majority. In reality, there is unprecedented Jewish demographic momentum, while Arab demography – throughout the Middle East – has Westernized dramatically. The Jewish majority in the combined area of Judea, Samaria and pre-1967 Israel benefits from a robust tailwind of fertility and migration.
  2. Israel’s control of the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria and the Golan Heights, bolsters its posture of deterrence, which has daunted rogue regimes, reduced regional instability, enhanced the national security of all pro-US Arab regimes, and has advanced Israel’s role as a unique force-multiplier for the US. An Israeli retreat from Judea and Samaria would transform Israel from a strategic asset – to a strategic liability – for the US.
  3. As the US reduces its military presence in the Middle East – which is a global epicenter of oil production, global trade (Asia-Africa), international Islamic terrorism and proliferation of non-conventional military technologies – Israel’s posture of deterrence becomes increasingly critical for the pro-US Arab countries (e.g., Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Jordan), who consider Israel to be the most reliable “life insurance agent” in the region.

Contrary to NATO, South Korea and Japan, Israel’s defense does not require the presence of US troops on its soil.

  1. Sustaining Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge is a mutual interest for the US and Israel, which serves as the most cost-effective battle-tested laboratory for the US defense industries and armed forces. Thus, Israel’s use of hundreds of US military systems has yielded thousands of lessons (operation, maintenance and repairs), which have been integrated, by the US manufacturers, into the next generation of the military systems, saving the US many years of research and development, increasing US exports and expanding the US employment base – a mega billion dollar bonanza for the US. At the same time, the US armed forces have benefitted from Israel’s military intelligence and battle experience, as well as joint training maneuvers with Israel’s defense forces, which has improved the US formulation of battle tactics.

Prime Minister Bennett, your visit to Washington, is an opportunity to demonstrate your adherence to your deeply-rooted strong Israeli positions, rejecting the ill-advised appeals and temptations to sacrifice Israel’s national security on the altar of convenience and popularity.

Yours truly,

Yoram Ettinger, expert on US-Israel relations and Middle East affairs

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