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An e-newsletter delivering updates and analysis on current issues about Israel and the Middle East conflict

August 4, 2009

Obama’s team tells Israel to stand down, even as Iran speeds up its nuclear development. Is it time for Israel to act on its own?

Dear Friend of FLAME:

Last week the Obama administration increased tension in U.S.-Israel relations by sending some of its heaviest hitters to Jerusalem--- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, National Security Advisor James Jones, special Middle East envoy George Mitchell and new White House adviser Dennis Ross. 

Based on recent policy statements, Obama's dream diplomatic team seems to be applying a full-court press to persuade Israel to make nice with the Arabs---namely stop East Jerusalem settlements and not attack Iran---as a way of supporting Obama's efforts to engage Iran and the rest of the Arab Middle East diplomatically.  He's so far requesting nothing from the Palestinians or Iranians in return.  (We at FLAME have commented often about the unfairness and folly of this approach.)

Israel, on the other hand, is sweating bullets about the imminent threat of a nuclear Iran, a country that openly threatens to wipe the Jewish state off the map.  Prime Minister Netanyahu has already offered to begin deliberations with the Palestinians (which they have rejected), but his larger, more immediate concern is existential---can Israel survive an Iranian nuclear attack . . . and what can be done to prevent it before it's too late?

Obama for his part seems to believe he can do what no U.S. president nor the European Union has done over the past ten years---persuade terrorist Iran through gentle diplomacy to abandon its nuclear ambitions.  In a bizarre twist of logic, he seems to believe that somehow Israel's acquiescence to Palestinian demands will persuade the Iranians to cooperate.

This week's Hotline article underscores how critical it is that Israel (and the U.S.) move now to incapacitate Iran's fast-growing nuclear capability. Its author, former U.S. United Nations ambassador John Bolton, exposes the Obama plan as patently unrealistic, especially within the timeframe necessary to ensure Israel's safety. Bolton, who is now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, also prepares us for the likelihood of an Israeli strike against Iran, despite the objections of the President Obama.  I think you'll find his analysis chilling, but realistic.


Jim Sinkinson
Director, FLAME


If you agree that Iran presents one of the greatest dangers to Israel, the United States and to world peace in general---please review the recent FLAME position paper---"The Deadly Threat of a Nuclear-Armed Iran: What can the world, what can the USA, what can Israel do about it?"  While the Obama administration wants to focus on an Israel-Palestinian agreement before resolving the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, common sense---and this powerful FLAME position paper---tell us otherwise.  This editorial piece has run in national media delivering more than ten million impressions, including to college students and all U.S. Senators and Representatives.  We also recently posted another excellent article on the significance of recent demonstrations in Iran, called "The prescience of protest: What the dissidents know about Iran," by Natan Sharansky, which appeared in the Los Angeles Times. Please check it out.  Above all, if you agree that FLAME's outspoken brand of public relations on Israel's behalf is critical, I urge you to support us. Remember: FLAME's ability to influence public opinion---including the administration's tendency to hold Israel solely responsible for peace in the Middle East---comes from Israel's supporters like you, one by one. I hope you'll consider giving a donation now, as you're able---with $500, $250, $100, or even $18. (Remember, your donation to FLAME is tax deductible.) To donate online, just go to Now more than ever we need your support to ensure that Israel gets the support it needs---from the U.S. Congress, from President Obama, and from the American people.

P.P.S. President Obama has asked for input from U.S. citizens on his Middle East policies.  To give him yours, please go right now to write the President.

It's crunch time for Israel on Iran: After years of failed diplomacy no one will be able to call an attack precipitous
By John Bolton, Wall Street Journal, July 28, 2009

Legions of senior American officials have descended on Jerusalem recently, but the most important of them has been Defense Secretary Robert Gates. His central objective was to dissuade Israel from carrying out military strikes against Iran's nuclear weapons facilities. Under the guise of counseling "patience," Mr. Gates again conveyed President Barack Obama's emphatic thumbs down on military force.

The public outcome of Mr. Gates's visit appeared polite but inconclusive. Yet Iran's progress with nuclear weapons and air defenses means Israel's military option is declining over time. It will have to make a decision soon, and it will be no surprise if Israel strikes by year's end. Israel's choice could determine whether Iran obtains nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future.

Mr. Obama's approach to Tehran has been his "open hand," yet his gesture has not only been ignored by Iran but deemed irrelevant as the country looks inward to resolve the aftermath of its fraudulent election. The hardliner "winner" of that election, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was recently forced to fire a deputy who once said something vaguely soothing about Israel. Clearly, negotiations with the White House are not exactly topping the Iranian agenda.

Beyond that, Mr. Obama's negotiation strategy faces insuperable time pressure. French President Nicolas Sarkozy proclaimed that Iran must re-start negotiations with the West by September's G-20 summit. But this means little when, with each passing day, Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile laboratories, production facilities and military bases are all churning. Israel is focused on these facts, not the illusion of "tough" diplomacy.

Israel rejects another feature of Mr. Obama's diplomatic stance. The Israelis do not believe that progress with the Palestinians will facilitate a deal on Iran's nuclear weapons program. Though Mr. Gates and others have pressed this fanciful analysis, Israel will not be moved.

Worse, Mr. Obama has no new strategic thinking on Iran. He vaguely promises to offer the country the carrot of diplomacy—followed by an empty threat of sanctions down the road if Iran does not comply with the U.S.'s requests. This is precisely the European Union's approach, which has failed for over six years.

There's no reason Iran would suddenly now bow to Mr. Obama's diplomatic efforts, especially after its embarrassing election in June. So with diplomacy out the door, how will Iran be tamed?

Mr. Gates' mission had extraordinary significance. Israel sees the political and military landscape in a very inauspicious light. It also worries that, once ensnared in negotiations, the Obama administration will find it very hard to extricate itself. The Israelis are probably right. To prove the success of his "open hand," Mr. Obama will declare victory for "diplomacy" even if it means little to no gains on Iran's nuclear program.

Under the worst-case scenario, Iran will continue improving its nuclear facilities and Mr. Obama will become the first U.S. president to tie the issue of Israel's nuclear capabilities into negotiations about Iran's.

Israel understands that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent commitment to extend the U.S. "defense umbrella" to Israel is not a guarantee of nuclear retaliation, and that it is wholly insufficient to deter Iran from obliterating Israel if it so decides. In fact, Mrs. Clinton's comment tacitly concedes that Iran will acquire nuclear weapons, exactly the wrong message. Since Israel, like the U.S., is well aware its missile defense system is imperfect, whatever Mr. Gates said about the "defense umbrella" will be politely ignored.

Relations between the U.S. and Israel are more strained now than at any time since the 1956 Suez Canal crisis. Mr. Gates's message for Israel not to act on Iran, and the U.S. pressure he brought to bear, highlight the weight of Israel's lonely burden.
Striking Iran's nuclear program will not be precipitous or poorly thought out. Israel's attack, if it happens, will have followed enormously difficult deliberation over terrible imponderables, and years of patiently waiting on innumerable failed diplomatic efforts. Absent Israeli action, prepare for a nuclear Iran.


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