Netanyahu to Panetta: Time Running Out on Iran

“Will Israel attack Iran’s nuclear program?” is a parlor game played by numerous people who don’t have enough information to know the answer. It may be that there still is no definite answer; on Tuesday night Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu openly told a national TV audience that he still hadn’t reached a decision on the matter.

Recent events, though, seem to warrant a conjecture that something is afoot.

U.S. defense secretary Leon Panetta was in Israel on Wednesday, meeting first with Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak and then with Netanyahu. His visit came hard on the heels of visits by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton two weeks ago and by National Security Adviser Tom Donilon just a few days before that (along with, from the other side of the aisle, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s visit at the start of this week).

And that string of visits by Donilon, Clinton, and Panetta is only part of an ongoing succession of top-level U.S. visitors in Israel over the past several months. David Horovitz, editor of The Times of Israel, notes that “according to one count” today’s meeting between Panetta and Barak was no less thantheir ninth this year.

The inescapable conclusion is that someone, at least—Washington—relates seriously to Israel’s warnings that it may take action against Iran, and is particularly anxious to reassure Jerusalem that the sanctions-and-diplomacy approach is working and deserves more time.

Barak, though, told Panetta on Wednesday that he saw an “extremely low” probability that sanctions would ever—on any timeline—get Tehran to give up its nuclear program, and that meanwhile Israel’s window to act is closing as Iran keeps brazenly on its course.

Netanyahu, in a joint press conference with Panetta after their meeting, was even more straightforward, telling the defense secretary point-blank:

Neither sanctions nor diplomacy have yet had any impact on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

…You yourself said a few months ago that when all else fails, America will act. But these declarations have also not yet convinced the Iranians to stop their program.

…Right now the Iranian regime believes that the international community does not have the will to stop its nuclear program. This must change and it must change quickly, because time to resolve this issue peacefully is running out.

On Tuesday night Netanyahu had given interviews to Israeli TV whose immediate purpose was to deflect leftist and populist flak over recent tax hikes and budget cuts. But the follow-up issue on the agenda was Iran, and Netanyahu addressed claims—which are heard from Israel itself to the pages of theNew York Times—that the Israeli defense establishment is opposed to a strike, saying:

In Israeli democracy, just like in any democracy, the political echelon makes the decisions and the professional echelon carries them out.

…I hear [the security chiefs’] evaluations behind closed doors The media debate…on the matter is irresponsible and is detrimental to state security. Appropriate discussions on such sensitive matters are held in private and there are many aspects that don’t even reach [the public]; the external debate is extremely inappropriate and very superficial.

Netanyahu then pointed out that in 1981 some security chiefs opposed Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s decision to bomb Iraq’s nuclear reactor—a step now widely admired and appreciated. On Iran, too, Netanyahu said,

[t]he decision that will be made, whatever it is, belongs to the political echelon. I will not allow a nuclear-armed Iran. The regime of the ayatollah is making bombs to destroy us! To the extent that it’s up to me, I won’t let it happen.

Two points are worth making here. First, it’s often claimed, both within and outside of Israel, that Netanyahu and Barak have been bluffing—talking tough about Iran as a way to goad the West to get serious about the sanctions. But, for one thing, it no longer sounds that way if it ever did. And for another, with Barak saying explicitly that he doubts that sanctions will ever work, such bluffing wouldn’t be logical in any case.

Second, Netanyahu and Barak are familiar with the Middle East and know that endlessly making threats without acting on them is not the way to thrive and survive in it. If they don’t really mean what they say, then their statements are detrimental to Israel by eroding its deterrence and projecting it as a paper tiger. In adducing the Begin-Iraq analogy and openly telling the U.S. defense secretary that time is running out, Netanyahu is putting a good deal on the line.

  • Mladen Andrijasevic

    Israel means what it says because in contrast to the Obama administration Netanyahu, Ya'alon and Barak understand the nature and magnitude of the Iranian threat , and therefore they know that they have no other choice but to destroy the Iranian nuclear sites . The American msm does not accurately report on the mood in Israel. Case in point is the crucial interview Vice PM and Strategic Affairs gave to Ari Shavit of Ha'aretz which went completely unreported in the US.
    Who’s Afraid of Moshe Ya’alon?

  • SHmuel HaLevi

    Strategically Iran is far more vulnerable in general terms than on the nuclear subject.
    Militarily, the nuclear sites of interest, would be attended to after other assets are terminated.
    Only my estimate.

  • ★FALCON★

    I don't know about anyone else – but I'm pretty darn sick and tired of talking about Iran. A regime change is long overdue. Remove Iran and the whole regional dynamic changes in an instant.

    This regime should be tried and executed.

    • Looking4Sanity

      We never paid them back properly for kidnapping our citizens. The way I see it, we demand an apology and admission of guilt for that. When they refuse, we bomb them into the stone age for insulting our honor and the world looks the other way or they get some of it too.

    • Mensch Keymelon

      Remove Israel, same equation…only there would be far wider peace.

      • Roger

        Like the Cops in Egypt have now? Like the non arabs in Sudan have now?

        Can you show any tolerance on the part of the militants that want Israel destroyed?

        • Kufar Dawg

          Don't forget the Christians of Syria and Iraq, or Iran's Jewish population. They probably all enjoy the
          kind of "peace" keymelon and islamofascists envision.

          • Roger

            You didn't have to mention the Jewish population of Saudi Arabia, they were expelled. And no one ever asks for them to get the 'right of return' either.

  • κατεργάζομαι

    Four months ago…….Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said that – – "international permission," – – rather than Congressional approval, was their 'legal basis' for military action by the United States.

    Obama likes to outsource responsibility, and he does not believe much in national sovereignty.

    President Obama is apparently fine with Iran developing the capability to build a nuclear weapon but indicated he might consider military means to stop them if they are detected as actually assembling a bomb with " OBAMA'S WEST WING" – or, – "MICHELLE'S BIG BUTT!" emblazoned on them.

  • Stern

    Ahmadinedjad is once again calling for the destruction of Israel. In his annual "Quds" day speech, he repeated all the usual anti-Semitic tropes – Jews control the world, world finances etc. – and then said "the world must do its best for the annihilation of the Zionist regime".

    Now we wait for the apologists to tell us that "he's only talking about the regime", not the people – oh, and of course, the whole thing was mistranslated.

    • fiddler

      Yes, they depend on our being "reasonable" people. It's a little foggy out there; I don't think that is a wolf at the sheep pen gate! Not to worry.

  • Bert

    Much depends on trust. Israel is being asked to forgo an attack on Iran and to trust its survival to a promise by the Obama gang. Obama has demonstrated that he consistently betrays America's friends and rewards America's enemies. Half of all Americans do not trust Obama.
    There is even reason to speculate that Obama wants to place Israel in a non-survivable position while he goes for a second term. This is a man whom we really do not know. Is it possible that at heart he is a Jihadist that wants to bring down the U.S. and throw Israel to the sharks? The more we see what he is doing the greater the alarm over his true intentions.

    • Roger

      If there was a bust of Golda Meyer in the oval office, it would not have been returned to their embassy. It would have probably ended up in the trash dumpster.

  • Western Sspirit

    Maybe Israel should bomb more than the nuclear sites.

  • Schlomotion

    This article, like Mr. Tapson's about Ms. Glick also embraces the Beginite Fascism that you don't need to be Albert Einstein to oppose. The key sections of Mr. Hornik's article are:

    "Netanyahu had given interviews to Israeli TV whose immediate purpose was to deflect leftist and populist flak"

    Which only leaves Beginite Fascism. And:

    "debate…on the matter is irresponsible and is detrimental to state security."

    Which is Beginite Fascism. And if you had any question in your mind, he also says:

    "Netanyahu then pointed out that in 1981 some security chiefs opposed Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s decision to bomb Iraq’s nuclear reactor—a step now widely admired and appreciated."

    Which is Beginite Fascism WRIT LARGE, and similar to the statements that the Beginite Fascists in the Neoconservative (Likudnik) coup within the Bush Administration used to describe his actions. E.g. Fascism now, admiration later.

    Here is a picture of the fascist dictator, Menachem Begin:

    • Stern

      You forgot to draw the mustache on Begin's face.

      Poor old slow-brain is really getting desperate, so instead of just posting messages that prove he has nothing to say, he links to pictures that prove he has nothing to say.

    • Kufar Dawg

      I find it strange that Schlo ignores the repeated threats of destruction being vomited forth by Assminijihad towards Israel. Then again, Schlo isn't bothered by the fact that the charter of Hamas quotes the hadeeth of islam that calls for the total extermination of Jews on a worldwide basis.

      • Roger

        Kind of exposes who pays him to be here.

  • melvin polatnick

    Installing Sharia law throughout the Greater Middle-East will bring peace to the region. Its only structures will be religious councils appointed by the people; their job would be the strict enforcement of Sharia law. The newly formed Islamic nations must be headless even if it would result in anarchy. Allah`s leadership must be searched for but only found in prayer.

    • Jerry

      You're an idiot, plain and simple!

  • Ghostwriter

    Ooooh! Beginite fascists. You're so creative,Schlomind. You'd be more so if your anti-semitism wasn't getting in the way so often.

  • jose

    Peace through total islam. All islam all sharia law, its the only way to save off a war. shalem.

    • Kufar Dawg

      While I'm sure our corrupt politicians in DC might suck that lie down most of the rest of the citizenry of the USA aren't being paid by islamofascist overlords to do so.