Daily Israel Report

Op-Ed: Iran Off the Hook; Israel On

We have an Israeli prime minister who seems convinced that everything is alright so long as the US does not declare out loud that it is no longer the friend of Israel.
Published: Friday, June 17, 2005 12:08 AM


More and more analysts are coming to the conclusion that the Bush Administration intends to do nothing to effectively prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. One sign of this is the US acquiescence to the re-election of Mohammed El-Baradei as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. El-Baradei has been, to say the least, very forthcoming when it comes to understanding Tehran's violations of its IAEA agreements. He seems more eager to 'close the Iranian file' than to pursue those hidden Iranian programs that Tehran has forbidden the IAEA access to.

Moreover, it is very likely that, pushed by such friendly-to-Israel states as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, El-Baradei will make a major effort to put Israel's nuclear dossier at the top of the IAEA agenda. Whether he succeeds in this will depend in no small part on the Bush Administration.

The Bush Administration recently seems to have gone through a serious strategic reevaluation. Not only does it no longer threaten Iran with military action against its nuclear facilities, it seems to have given up the hope that Security Council action would somehow induce Iran to abandon its nuclear program. It also seems more and more subdued in relation to the much-publicized campaign to democratize the Middle East and, in fact, the world as a whole. The war in Iraq is proving more difficult than the US thought it would be. There is less and less enthusiasm for it at home.

The world energy situation has not, as initially expected, gone through dramatic improvement because of the war, but has, in fact, deteriorated. Two of the greatest benefactors of the boon of high oil prices are the two major terror-supporting states in the world, Iran and America's "own", Saudi Arabia.

In this situation, in which the US seems unable to act against its own real enemies, it finds itself being more and more 'testy' and demanding of Israel. Whatever one might think of the whole quarrel over Israeli arms sales to China (and here it must be admitted that the US has a serious concern), the US demand that Israel fire high officials in the Israeli Defense Department is without question arrogant and unreasonable behavior, the behavior of a suzerain to a vassal, and not of a senior ally to a junior one.

Moreover, the constant US ignoring of Palestinian violations of all agreements between the Palestinians and Israel means it has bought the Saudi Arabian line here also. The US has shown no force whatsoever in insisting that the Palestinians stop their incitement, and disarm Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Instead, there is the old, unending litany about Israel having to make more and more concessions, including those which would make for a 'contiguous Palestinian state'. Long underplayed by Israeli champions of the Bush Administration is that the US decision to support an independent Palestinian Arab state seriously threatens the very existence of Israel, not to say additional, vital US interests in the Middle East.

More and more, it would seem, the US is unable to withstand the difficulty of its own international isolation, and is tilting in the direction of joining with the Europeans and finding primary fault with Israel. This is a truly alarming situation, especially when we have an Israeli prime minister who seems convinced that everything is alright so long as the US does not declare out loud that it is no longer the friend of Israel.

As Iran continues to move ahead with its nuclear program, as it moves closer to receiving European and IAEA legitimization for its right to enrich uranium, Israel, it seems, is being set up for closer IAEA supervision and for greater US criticism.

All this does not bode well for Israel, especially when one considers that the Iranian leadership continues to maintain that the very existence of Israel is a "crime" and "illegitimate".

And it most especially does not bode well that Israel's one real ally and friend seems to be going farther and farther in appeasing those Saudis whose support of terror worldwide has, from the beginning, undermined the Bush Administration's campaign against terror.

When one does not wish to face the real enemy, one often chooses a scapegoat for oneself.

It is to be hoped that however great its dependence on Saudi oil and money, the US administration will not sink so low as to completely abandon its sole democratic friend in the Middle East, and its very own principles.