Alan Newman

Timing is everything

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Following Iran’s unprecedented April 13 airborne attack on Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu and his three-man war cabinet now face a monumental decision on how and when to respond. To date, both Iran and Israel have threatened dire consequences, and it is easy to imagine catastrophic escalation into a regional war, or even worse. The surgical strike by Israel onto Iranian soil of April 18 delivered with “zone of deniability” precision confirms the careful tit-for-tat conservative approach preceding any strategic escalatory next steps.

Armchair generals and real generals opine on Israel’s “war game” dilemma: should Israel punch back knowing that the Iranian thugs respect strength and prey on weakness? But, more importantly, they should ponder if Israel, fully capable of delivering punishing retaliation, should wait until the 2024 American election is decided.

The stakes are very high for Israel. A case can be made that President Biden, notwithstanding his tactical support for Israel since October 7, is not the reliable partner who would backstop an Israeli kinetic response to Iran. Biden has said outright he would not participate in a retaliatory attack. There is also doubt, notwithstanding his proclamation to “not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon,” whether Biden would act to to remove this ultimate threat. More broadly, Israel must question if President Biden is committed to pursue the Obama-era doctrine of placating and rewarding Iran in order to coax them to join the family of law-abiding nations.

President Donald Trump’s second term, if it were to occur, can build on his first term support for Israel. He can re-energize the Abraham Accords with a goal to bring Saudi Arabia into the alliance. The air defense cooperation with several Arab nations during the Iranian attack suggest that the Accords were a model of cooperation. Moving the Embassy to Jerusalem and recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights were two other impressive achievements of Trump’s administration.

There are about seven months until the American election and the race between Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump is very close. The thin margin-of-error difference can be affected by a wild set of circumstances including the health of two elderly candidates, criminal trials and family investigations, and a process that may sidestep the traditional theatre of debates. Since the October 7 Hamas massacre, all can witness the confounding explosion of anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian-Hamas-Iran performative outrage on American streets. Forces in Congress, academia, high-tech and the media are sympathetic to Hamas and add to energy opposing Israel.

Where other topics like inflation, abortion, open borders, and green energy would drive a voter’s choice, in some important voting districts the Israel versus Palestinians issue has moved up on the list of motivations. It is not farfetched to assume that the state-by-state Electoral College strategists, with 538 electoral votes in play, focus in on swing states like Michigan with its fifteen votes. Cities like Dearborn have large Muslim populations and these Muslim constituencies are represented by highly partisan and outspoken Congresspeople. Biden’s reelection team might well believe that it is the lynchpin to his reelection.

Israel’s dependence on America is clear. The robust alliance between Israel and the United States includes a wide range of military activities including intelligence, weapons development, armaments stockpiling and United States Central Command (CENTCOM) military planning integration. All of this said, the power of the Executive Branch on diplomatic and geopolitical matters is crucial and the office of the president will have the last word.

After January 20, 2025, Iran would likely prefer Joe Biden serving a second term rather than Donald Trump back in the White House. Iran will nervously watch the clock tick down towards November 5th American election, guessing that Trump’s past staunch support for Israel will bode poorly for them. The Israeli War Cabinet should recall that back in 1991 Israel wason receiving end of forty-two Scud missiles fired by Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. President George H.W. Bush asked for and received Israel’s promise not to complicate his battleplan. It was a successful geopolitical “less is more” strategy.

Between now and the 2024 election, pro-Israel supporters should encourage Congress to provide support, and bipartisanship is crucial. A tempered approach from the Israeli government should diminish dogmatic opposition and allow for any congresspeople on the margins to collaborate. Significant military funding, alignment on completing the war in Gaza, hostage release, diplomatic advocacy, antisemitism legislation are activities that can be addressed without attention diverted to an all-out war. These benefits accrue from measured actions and thoughtful timing.

Israeli spokespeople reference retaliatory actions at a place and time of its choosing. It conjures up the proverbial dictum that vengeance is a dish best served cold, and it argues to wait for that perfect moment to strike. In Israel’s very tough neighborhood where sneak attacks, assassinations and asymmetric negotiations for hostages are a sad way of life, Israel knows that timing and proportionality must be judiciously calculated. Israeli leaders must look westward to gauge America’s resolve in this existentially critical calculus.

Leo Tolstoy said, “The two most important warriors are patience and time.”  Israel has the means to exact justice, but with the American election up for grabs, let the mullahs sweat in their Tehran bunkers wondering about that dish best served cold.

Timing is everything.

About the Author
Alan Newman is a life-long supporter of the Jewish community and Israel. His commitment is evident with his hands-on approach and leadership positions at AIPAC, StandWithUs, Ben-Gurion University, Ethiopian National Project and Federation’s JCRC. He has traveled to Israel almost two dozen times and is an enthusiastic supporter of pro-Israel Christians including critical organizations like CUFI, ICEJ, USIEA and Genesis 123 Foundation. Alan’s compelling novel, GOOD HEART, published by Gefen Publishing House, is a multi-generational story about a Christian and Jewish family. He was a senior executive at Citigroup and holds two US Patents. He lives with his wife in West Palm Beach and enjoys time with his two sons and their families.
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