Last Sunday, the head of Israel's military intelligence reported that Iran has mastered the nuclear fuel cycle and can rapidly move from low-grade uranium enrichment to weapons-grade uranium enrichment. He also said that the next 18 months will be "critical" for preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
There is a national consensus in Israel that preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons is the most important and urgent national-security challenge facing the country. Even if Iran refrains from using the weapons directly against Israel, a nuclear-armed Iran will accelerate its efforts to destabilize and destroy the Jewish state by using its proxies in the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq to wage constant, unrelenting terror, guerrilla and conventional warfare.
A nuclear arsenal will likewise help Iran to expand its sphere of influence by empowering it to escalate its efforts to overthrow the Jordanian and Egyptian regimes, and accelerate Hamas' takeover of the Palestinian Authority, scuttling peace negotiations and peace treaties with Israel. Other Arab states – including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Morocco, and Kuwait – will also see their regimes threatened or overthrown by radical forces operating under Iran's nuclear umbrella.
And this is the best-case scenario.
It is no wonder, then, that Israelis of all political stripes are deeply disturbed by the Obama administration's Middle East policies. Since taking office, President Obama has made it clear that preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons is not a major concern for him. Rather, he strives to open diplomatic relations with Iran in the inexplicable hope that Iran can be appeased out of a nuclear program that has already brought it to the cusp of regional hegemony.
Over the last several weeks, as part of the buildup to tomorrow's meeting between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the administration has ratcheted up its rhetoric against Israel. Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, national security adviser James Jones, and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel are among those who have stated that Israel cannot expect the United States to support its aim of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons unless Israel first makes concessions to the Palestinians. That is, if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, Israel will be to blame.
Israelis are mystified by this position. With Iran's proxy Hamas in charge of Gaza, and ascendant in the West Bank, it is clear that any Palestinian state that is established in the near future will be an Iranian-aligned terror state at war with Israel. That is, while administration officials claim "the only solution is a two-state solution," Israelis recognize that the rapid establishment of a Palestinian state will only cause more war, terror, and regional instability.
Moreover, statements by Biden and Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressing the administration's opposition to an Israeli military strike against Iran's nuclear installations, together with Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller's recent call for Israel to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, have led many Israelis to perceive a strategic and moral blindness informing the administration's views about Israel and Iran. Apparently, for the administration, there is no difference between Israel, a stalwart U.S. ally and fellow democracy, and Iran – a terror-supporting, human-rights-violating, self-declared enemy of the United States that has been attacking U.S. citizens, interests, and allies since the 1979 Islamic revolution, and has repeatedly called for Israel to be eradicated.
A poll taken earlier this month by Bar Ilan University showed that only 38 percent of Israelis view Obama as friendly toward Israel. Moreover, 66 percent of Israelis support a military strike on Iran's nuclear installations, and only 15 percent say they believe Israel should cancel an attack on Iran if the United States opposes the operation.
These data are important for understanding how Israelis are responding to the Obama administration's apparent hostility toward Israel and its perceived preference for a nuclear-armed Iran over any concerted action by the United States or Israel to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. What the administration is signaling Israelis – and their government – is that Washington is no longer Israel's trusted ally. Indeed, it is becoming clear to the Israeli public that, for the administration, it doesn't matter what Israel does or what its enemies do. As far as Obama and his advisers are concerned, Israel's refusal to make further concessions to the Palestinians will be the cause for whatever transpires.
In this state of affairs, on the eve of the Obama-Netanyahu meeting, more and more Israelis have come to the conclusion that there is little point in taking Washington's views into consideration. If Washington is going to blame Israel anyway, we are better off being blamed for preemptively removing the threat of a new Holocaust than for allowing that threat to become a fact of life.
Originally published in the Philadelphia Inquirer.