There are very worrying signs about Israel and Iran, amid new threats from Israeli officials that they won’t long tolerate Iran’s nuclear program before they strike militarily. But, at the same time, there are reports that President Obama’s national security team isn’t buying the Israeli line that time is running out.
For instance, a top Israeli military official, in Washington, was not exactly given the red carpet treatment by Obama’s top officials — yet even so, he met Jim Jones, Obama’s national security adviser, Hillary Clinton, and Dennis Ross.
The Israeli armed forces chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, met yesterday with top US officials in Washington, including General James Jones, the national security adviser, and Dennis Ross, the State Department’s special adviser on “the Gulf and Southwest Asia,” and he warned that Israel is preparing for a military strike on Iran. According to Haaretz, the Israeli daily:
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi on Monday said that while Israel was interested in exhausting diplomatic options against Iran’s nuclear program, the army must nevertheless prepare itself for a military attack. …
During a visit to Washington, D.C., Ashkenazi met with Dennis Ross, the designated U.S. envoy to the Persian Gulf, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to discuss the Iranian issue. The IDF chief told Ross that Israel would not tolerate a nuclear Iran. He said that a diplomatic approach to Iran’s contentious nuclear program must be taken first, but said Israel must also prepare for other possibilities.
It’s interesting that he met Ross, the hawkish former official of the pro-Israel thinktank, the Washington Institute for Near East Affairs, who’s taken over the Iran file at the State Department.
Meanwhile, the still-in-formation government of Bibi Netanyahu, Israel’s uber-hawk, has made some important appointments that relate to Iran, too.
First, Netanyahu has reached an agreement with Avigdor Lieberman, the far-right, anti-Arab hardliner, who will become Israel’s foreign minister. According to the Jerusalem Post, which obtained a copy of the Netanyahu-Lieberman agreement, Lieberman will be given a big stake in Israel’s Iran policy:
The coalition agreement that the Likud signed with Israel Beiteinu at 1 a.m. on Monday not only makes party leader Avigdor Lieberman foreign minister, it also puts him in charge of Israel’s strategic dialogue with the United States on issues such as Iran, according to a draft of the deal obtained by the Jerusalem Post.
The joint American-Israel strategic dialogue committee is where key decisions are made regarding both countries’ policies toward the emerging nuclear threat, and on other key strategic issues in meetings twice a year.