Obama’s big Mideast mistake
- Last Updated: 1:00 AM, March 2, 2012
- Posted: 10:20 PM, March 1, 2012
President Obama will speak before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Sunday and meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday. Expect a lot of soothing words about how America’s relations with Israel are closer than ever — all contrary evidence notwithstanding.
White House aides say the commander-in-chief’s AIPAC speech may include some forceful words about possible US military action against Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, and Obama will no doubt seek to privately assure Netanyahu on the same front. That is, Obama will offer lots of words about action.
Yet the administration has spent the last week or so planting stories about the perils of a military strike — especially one by Israel. It even got our intelligence agencies to make the announcement that, though Tehran is building all the components of a nuclear bomb, there’s no proof it actually intends to make a bomb.
This is tragic, because the AIPAC speech and the meeting with Bibi could be an opportunity for Obama to show he finally understands that US-Israeli cooperation is the real key to stability in the Middle East — and that the real obstacle to future peace isn’t in Jerusalem but Tehran.
The president’s taken the opposite tack since entering office. From his very first meeting with Netanyahu in May 2009, he’s made it clear he considered Israel the real obstacle to peace in the Middle East, and that by dissing Israel he could gain more leverage as an “honest broker” in the region.
It hasn’t worked very well; the anti-Israel stance has contributed to a steady slide in our strategic position. The region’s grown more volatile and dangerous — and may explode if Israeli bombs fall on targets in Iran.
The fact is, Arab rulers around the Middle East may hate Israel, but they know Iran is actually a threat. The regime there is using its radical form of Shia Islam to aid the ancient Persian drive to dominate the region.
Ironically, Israel is the bulwark of regional stability. It’s the Israelis who assassinate top terrorist leaders; it’s Israel that takes out nuclear-weapon sites of rogue nations like Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007, freeing the Saudis, Jordan and the Gulf States of such threats. Israel also usefully deflects Iran’s active hostility from the Arab monarchies.
With Egypt no longer serving as another pillar of the anti-radical status quo, Israel’s role as linchpin to restrain Iran and its extremist allies is more vital than ever.
Here’s where the question of what to do about Iran’s nuclear program is crucial.
What Israelis and others in the region understand — but this administration doesn’t — is that although Israel will bomb those nuclear sites if it has to, the United States can strike with far less chance of triggering a major conflict in the region.
They also know that dealing with Iran once and for all is actually the surest way to peace, including on the Palestinian issue. An Israel that knows the United States will never permit a second Holocaust is far more likely to feel ready to reach a final settlement with its neighbors than one that doesn’t.
Instead, Israelis now see a United States willing to let them die trying to take out Iran’s nuclear sites in order to preserve America’s sham role as an “honest broker” in the Middle East — and one willing to risk a nuclear-armed Iran rather than be seen treating Israel as a real ally.
On Sunday, the president will go through the charade of pretending that all’s well with our relationship with Israel. It isn’t. That’s a tragedy not only for us and the Israelis, but for the rest of the Middle East.
Arthur Herman’s next book, “Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War Two,” hits stores in May.Follow @NYPostOpinion