Send the White House a Message

It’s time for Israel to get thoroughly involved in the regional balance of power. And the most logical place for Israel to do so is in Lebanon. If President Obama believes that the region will stand pat and allow him to conclude a very bad nuclear deal with Iran — without a dramatic change in Tehran’s militant revolutionary behavior — it’s past time that this American president was taught a lesson. The Saudis began the lesson in Yemen. The Israelis should continue that very same lesson against Hezbollah and the one hundred thousand missiles aimed at the Jewish state from their stronghold in southern Lebanon. If one hundred thousand missiles pointed at Israeli population centers means next to nothing to this administration, then Israel better start looking for more reliable strategic partner. Saudi Arabia has recently gained some leverage through its strong relationship with France, but what leverage does Israel have?

Don’t get me wrong, I know Israel has lots of friends in the US. But Barack Obama and the majority of his Democratic Party cohorts have gambled that within a decade Iran will change course and become a responsible global citizen. What I’m saying is that Israel needs an insurance policy. And like the Saudis, it’s time Israel took matters into its own hands and stopped relying on Congress to curtail Obama’s unrealistic plans. If the administration (through the nuclear deal) is willing to bet a hundreds of billion dollars that Iran will behave itself some time in the future, then Israel needs to make sure that the weapons that Tehran supplies its surrogate, Hezbollah, are stopped. This threat must be completely removed from the Lebanese and Syrian borders before Washington starts to lift Iranian sanctions. After all, Israel lives in a very dangerous neighborhood, while Obama lives on a continental island surrounded by thousands of miles of water. In other words, Iranian hegemonic designs must be pushed back to a place somewhere near its own borders. If this current American administration doesn’t have the backbone to do it (and it doesn’t and it won’t), then it’s up to the people of the region to take the reins of leadership and roll back the Persian menace. If this interferes with Obama’s nuclear legacy, well so be it.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has been outsmarted and outmaneuvered by Obama and the Democratic Party. And while his speech in Washington was strong, the partisanship upon which it was initially handled has continued to haunt the Prime Minister. Unfortunately Netanyahu is seen by the Democratic Party as an agent of their political nemesis, the Republicans. But Bibi is not who the Democrats think he is. In reality, Netanyahu is the worried leader of a nation who takes Iran and its anti-Semitic Supreme Leader at his word. And Netanyahu is not alone. The Sunni Arab states and Turkey also understand the nature of the Iranian revolution and they too take the Supreme leader at his word. Recently a more forceful regional cooperative effort against Iran’s ally, Assad in Syria, has begun to bear fruit. Because of the efforts of Qatar, the Saudis and Turkey, Assad and Hezbollah have now become involved in a struggle for their very existence. Now is the time for Israel to enter the game. Bibi must give Nasrallah (Hezbollah’s leader) an ultimatum; either he begins to dismantle the missile systems pointed at Israel or else Israel will dismantle them, period.

Obama must be kept under incredible pressure. He can’t be allowed to skate his way forward toward an unworkable nuclear deal. This will require real leverage and not just repeated rhetoric. The same is true for Iran. The only way to deal with both Obama and the Supreme leader is to isolate them and create division between them. Already France is showing signs of doing just that. The French and the GCC states are working together to insist that Obama’s framework agreement with Iran is tightened in order to make it foolproof. As Saudi King Salman prepares to meet Obama at Camp David next Wednesday (he still could send his foreign minister), the king made certain that all of Washington was sent a powerful photo. At the center of the photo was French President Francois Hollande. The French president was surrounded by all the Arab Kings of the Gulf region. Presumably France and Saudi Arabia will insist that the nuclear deal — while short and with a ridiculous sunset clause — is at least verifiable to the maximum degree possible. In other words, all Iranian military facilities must be placed within the immediate and unrestricted scope of a total international inspection regime. Nothing short of this strict implementation is either workable or realistic.

However the only language Iran really understands is force. But the last resort the Democratic party will ever use is force. From the perspective of the Democratic party base, America needs to withdraw from military commitment and become a more isolationist country. The vast majority of the left in the US is against foreign involvement, especially in the Middle East. And a good portion of the right (especially those leaning toward the libertarian wing) feel the same way. Whether or not Israel or the Sunni Arab states can rely on the US in the future has become (for the first time) an open question. But Israel never expected for US troops to come to its aid. On the contrary, Israel can defend itself. But such a defense becomes much more difficult when Washington perceives Tehran as a potential force for stability within the region. This complete misconception cannot be allowed to stand. Especially when it’s used as an excuse for not acting militarily.

But like all small countries, Israel needs a strategic partner (or partners) to supply it with the weaponry it relies on for its defense. Last summer, the Obama administration threatened Israel indirectly by demanding a ceasefire to its Gaza operation. And while resupply was never jeopardized through an interdiction, an oblique message was sent just the same. But Lebanon is not Gaza. And Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps are not Hamas. And the stakes between Israel and Iran are much, much higher. The White House needs to be sent a real message by the Israeli leadership, not just bluster.

The Iran nuclear deal is bad enough, but a region controlled by Iran is an anathema to all of America’s current allies in the Middle East. Israel and the Sunni world will simply not allow Iran to dominate the region. And if the American legislative branch (under the direct influence of the White House) cannot be trusted to bloc Iran from its nuclear threshold and regional hegemonic designs, at least it shouldn’t stand in the way of its allies to get the job done themselves.

President Obama has decided to play his passive hand with Iran and now he’s caught in a dilemma. No one else in the Middle East will allow him to play such a weak appeasement game without the certainty of local military repercussions. But as the regional war heats up, both Washington and Tehran are pushed farther and farther apart. Simply put, Obama cannot be located in two diametrically opposed camps at the same time. Now it’s Israel’s turn to send the American president a message of real intent: “The Iranian regime in Syria and Lebanon has now become our red line. And because we consider your nuclear framework to be a complete disaster, we simply won’t allow such a state as Iran to remain on our borders. You might feel sanguine with such a regime as a nuclear threshold state, we don’t. Mr. President, are you with us or against us?”

About the Author
Steven Horowitz has been a farmer, journalist and teacher spanning the last 45 years. He resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. During the 1970's, he lived on kibbutz in Israel, where he worked as a shepherd and construction worker. In 1985, he was the winner of the Christian Science Monitor's Peace 2010 international essay contest. He was a contributing author to the book "How Peace came to the World" (MIT Press).