Israel prepares to swallow the bitter Iran pill

Iran has taken in its stride the meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and the Heads of Delegations of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries at Camp David on Thursday. The Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was plainly dismissive in his remark yesterday in Tehran.

What matters for Tehran is that Obama has silenced the Gulf Arab states and extracted their “support” for the imminent Iran nuclear deal. A noisy crowd in Iran’s neighborhood, which was threatening to turn riotous, has been dispersed. It is really something brilliant and totally expected that the Gulf monarchs would one day nod their hand and mumble that an Iran deal serves their “security interests”.

The Gulf monarchs understood that the Iran deal matters critically for the U.S. and the choice was between drifting part from the U.S. and switching to a mode of strategic defiance or seeing the writing on the wall and coming to terms with it with some grace. (See my blog Obama extracts GCC support for Iran deal.) Actually, for these authoritarian rulers for whom U.S. support is tantamount to a vital lifeline, there wasn’t really any choice in the matter.

Can the same thing be said for Israel? Unlike the archaic Arab oligarchies, Israel is a throbbing modern democracy; it has a government that is ultimately accountable to the nation and no one else; and, while it may be a recipient of substantial U.S. help it also possesses a vibrant economy and is a wealthy country by world standards. In principle, Israel is well-placed to go the John Wayne way.

But, will it? With such overwhelming international opinion approving the raison d’etre of an Iran nuclear deal and with the prospects of the U.S. Congress killing the deal becoming dimmer and dimmer by the day, Israel needs to do some quick thinking. Its last hope was of forming a united front with the Gulf oligarchies, which too has crashed in the quicksands of Gulf politics. (The Camp David summit even adopted an unfriendly stance on the Palestine issue – two-state solution, et al.)

To my mind, Obama won’t attempt another Camp David with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu between now and end-June. But Israel doesn’t need one. It is a pragmatic country and Netanyahu is a hardened realist. He’d know that John McCain’s takeoff on the Beach Boys – “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” – was always a weird cry.

Nonetheless, it will be fun to watch how Israel swallows the bitter pill of the Iran nuclear deal. Netanyahu will be smart if he tries to gain something out of the bad situation by extracting from Obama something really tangible – unlike the repetitive platitudes that the Gulf Arabs received from the U.S.

The U.S. has never been resistant to the idea of giving more assistance to Israel. It is always a popular move in the U.S. Congress, the media and the think tanks. Obama can be certain about a rare bipartisan support forthcoming from America’s political class. Therefore, it’s up to Netanyahu’s ingenuity to push together and present an optimal “wish list” – that is, if he hasn’t yet done that already.

The Jerusalem Post reflected a balanced view today on the inevitable regional alignments that can be expected on the Middle Eastern chessboard following Iran’s surge as a regional power in the downstream of the nuclear deal. It foresees a reconciliation between Iran and the GCC states, based on a moderation in the regional policies of Iran and Saudi Arabia. The assessment is very realistic and plausible. In sum, the time for crying wolf is long gone – that is, if ever there was a (Persian) wolf in the jungle where the Lion of Judah prowled.

Looking ahead, the challenge facing israel is the challenge of not succumbing to the temptations of its native swagger and to learn instead to exercise self-restraint. It’s about time to lower the head beneath the parapet for a while until the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal gets under way.

Fundamentally, Obama is right in maintaining that the Iran nuclear deal will also be in Israel’s interests. Trust that Obama’s deal will not be disowned by his successor, no matter what the right-wingers in the U.S. may claim, because doing so will only lead to the U.S.’ international isolation and a cul-de-sac in the U.S.’ foreign policies. Who will take America seriously thereafter?

Meanwhile, Israel can count on the Iranian ingenuity not to give cause for a breakdown of the nuclear deal, either. All things considered, therefore, now that Israel has done its utmost to kill the deal — and failed spectacularly — it is about time to join the winning side of Barack Obama. See a down-to-earth report, here, by Ynetnews quoting high-level israeli sources.

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Categories: Asia Times News & Features, M.K. Bhadrakumar

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