In Haaretz, Chemi Shalev identifies Benjamin Netanyahu as the stalling engine of the Iran-US crisis. He would be the “prime suspect” in the event of war.
In fact, if it was the hawks in his administration that led Trump toward this acceleration, it remains true that he was driven to take the resolution by the Israeli Prime Minister who has imagined this scenario for some time.
As regards Shalev, Netanyahu hopes in the repetition of what happened during the war against Iraq, of which Israel was a mere spectator. Thus, the Israeli security forces have been ordered to keep a low profile.
Netanyahu and the war in Iraq
On the subject of the war in Iraq, Shalev points out that the speech given by Netanyahu in 2002 to the US House of Representatives’ Government Reform Committee has recently resurfaced from some obscure archive.
“Netanyahu – writes Shalev – assured the American Congress that Saddam owned nuclear weapons or was on the point of acquiring them, thanks to secret centrifuges, ‘no bigger than a washing machine.’ Overthrowing Saddam, promised Netanyahu, would be miraculous for the entire Middle East.”
According to Shalev the testimony proved decisive in convincing George W. Bush to engage in war and is evidence of Netanyahu’s tendency “to exaggerate” certain threats as well as to conceive “US military force as the ultimate answer to threats against Israel, whether from Baghdad or from Teheran.”
Moreover the Prime Minister does not seem alarmed by the possibility of Teheran’s response to a US attack, or the launch on the part of Hezbollah of “hundreds if not thousands of missiles (…) on Israeli towns and villages”. Evidently, writes Shalev, this is a price “worth paying”.
The troubled US-Iran relationship
Of interest in the article are past relations between the US and Iran: the coup planned by Dwight Eisenhower which in 1953 overthrew Mohammad Mossadeq; the support given by the different US presidents to “the repressive regime of the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi”; the crisis of the US embassy in Teheran [which put an end to Carter’s presidency in favour of Ronald Reagan]; Reagan’s decision to arm Iraq “to the teeth” in order to unleash it against Iran; the total embargo imposed by Bill Clinton against Teheran in 1995; the inclusion [unjustified] of Iran in the Terror blacklist in the aftermath of September 11…
Past events do not aid dialogue. During the storm, Shalev believes that the US visit of Ueli Maurer of the Swiss Confederation aimed to single out a “compromise” with Teheran.
There are grounds for the assumption: we should remember that Trump gave Switzerland his direct number to pass on to the Iranians (Piccolenote). A way of urging the latter to contact Swiss authorities, which presumably they did. Maurer is not the only one; it seems another contact was established via Oman, the Sultan of which, Qabus, has direct relations with Teheran (al Monitor).
Quiet negotiations are taking place in the background in the hope of avoiding any bumps along the way, which however seem increasingly likely given the toxic winds blowing over this crisis. Winds of war.
According to Shalev, Netanyahu has made an “all-in“ bet on such an ominous development.
In the light of the above, the political struggles taking place within Israel involving Netanyahu on multiple fronts take on even greater importance. On the one hand, the constitution of a government appears even harder than what the Prime Minister had envisaged after the electoral victory: he has not as yet succeeded in convincing Avigdor Liberman and other minor parties to support him. (Yedioth Ahronoth).
On the other, he has taken on an existential battle against magistrates, whom he accuses of persecuting him. He was hoping to introduce regulations to protect himself, however he is encountering unexpected difficulties.
As one might expect, the opposition, but also some members of his own party, are against such a hypothesis. So much so that he is thinking of abandoning it. (Timesofisrael).
Netanyahu’s two fronts
The Israeli Prime Minister is therefore engaged on two fronts: an internal one, for his own political survival, and an external one, to crown his plan to turn Israel into the undisputed major Midlle Eastern power, to be achieved through an unequal alliance, – similar to the treaties drafted between China and the colonial powers – with Sunni nations and the resizing of Iran.
Though such battles are taking place on different levels they may not be too distinct. In the past Netanyahu has proved he is very capable of accessing the path to compromise. Yet, the all-in bet on Iran and his existential struggle on the home front leave little space for such a possibility. We shall see.