Three weeks ago, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz convened the ambassadors from all the U.N. Security Council member nations in Jerusalem. They told them that if Iran maintains its current pace of uranium enrichment, it will reach military nuclear break-out capacity in 70 days. If their countdown clock is accurate, Iran is now around seven weeks away from becoming a nuclear-capable state.
Given the urgency of the situation, Israel’s prime minister could have been expected to fly to Washington to make clear to the U.S. president that Israel intends to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities at Qom, Fordo, Natanz and Isfahan (or any combination of them) in order to stop the clock. The same prime minister could be expected to tell the president that while Israel would appreciate U.S. assistance in carrying out the mission, all Israel asks is for the United States not to undermine its operation.
On the face of things then, it makes sense to assess Naftali Bennett’s trip to Washington in the context of the urgency of the hour. And on the face of things, it appears to have been carried out in this context.
Bennett insisted on visiting the White House in the midst of the greatest strategic catastrophe to befall the United States since the Sept. 11 attacks. But whereas those attacks were the work of foreign jihadist terrorists, America’s present strategic defeat—now compounded by last Wednesday’s murderous terrorist assault on Kabul airport—is the direct consequence of President Joe Biden’s actions.
Over the past few weeks, Biden has demonstrated that his judgment is impaired. The apparent absence of any strategic or operational foresight informing America’s humiliating withdrawal from Kabul, and Biden’s failure to coordinate the operation with U.S. allies, has decimated his credibility. U.S. allies recognize that they cannot trust America under his leadership.
If it was so important to Bennett to come in the midst of all of this, he could have been expected to leverage the current crisis to make clear that Israel is not following the United States down the rabbit hole. That Israel will defend itself and the time to act has arrived.
But that doesn’t appear to be what happened. Bennett said that he presented Biden with a completely new strategy for blocking Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed state. And Biden helpfully said that he was committed to blocking Iran from ever acquiring nuclear weapons. But Biden also said that he doesn’t think the situation is urgent at all. On the contrary. He said, “We’re putting diplomacy first and seeing where it takes us.” He added blandly, “But if diplomacy fails, we’re ready to turn to other options.”
If Iran is on target to become a nuclear-capable state in seven weeks, then the upshot of Biden’s statement is that the Biden administration is willing to live with a nuclear Iran.
There was no evidence of tension between the two leaders in their joint appearance at the Oval Office. This despite the fact that Biden’s claim that he would consider “other options” was far weaker than statements by then-President Barack Obama. At the height of his efforts to appease Iran through nuclear concessions, Obama said that the “military option is on the table.” Even worse, when U.S. reporters asked White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki what other options are being considered, she said that at this point, no options other than diplomacy are being considered in respect to Iran’s nuclear activities.
Biden failed in Afghanistan because he apparently believed that with the unstinting support of the U.S. media, he didn’t need to bother putting together a coherent withdrawal plan or discussing it ahead of time with U.S. allies. He was convinced that good PR meant you don’t need a good policy. His failure in Afghanistan proves that reality is unmoved by press clippings.
Israel’s media are Bennett’s flacks. And the reporters and commentators on TV claimed that Bennett’s goal was simply to sit down with Biden. Just by sitting in the Oval Office, he showed that he is the prime minister now—not the other guy. But here too, the reality is a stubborn thing. According to Lapid and Gantz, we are but seven weeks away from Iran becoming a nuclear state. The atmospherics of the meeting had no impact on that state of affairs.
Biden’s fiasco in Kabul showed the world that he is not a trustworthy ally. In their joint appearance, even the nice promise that Iran will not get nuclear weapons, which Biden read from his cue cards, could not diminish the fact that his underlying message is that he is not with Israel on Iran.
Bennett told reporters after the meeting that he had accomplished what he set out to achieve. And maybe that’s true. But it will be reality, not successful public relations, that will decide if Israel got anything out of the trip. On the face of things, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Reprinted with author’s permission from Jewish News Syndicate