When Prime Minister Netanyahu returned home from New York on Saturday night, in order to arrive here for Sukkot, he pronounced himself satisfied with his speech at the UN:
He has called the world's attention to the issue of the dangers of a nuclear Iran, and has done so in terms that can be dramatically and readily understood.
When, in the course of a subsequent Channel 2 interview, he was asked about whether Israel had postponed readiness to attack Iran, he responded:
"Not for one second did I give up on Israel’s right to defend itself at all times."
And I think this clarification, once again, is important. He was calling on the US, or the international community, to establish a red line. He wasn't limiting Israel to any particular time frame, because he cannot be certain of how the US, or the international community, will respond and what it might be necessary for Israel to do in the way of self-defense.
I have picked up on commentators who said, "now that Netanyahu has pledged to push back an Israeli response until spring or summer of next year..." But I didn't hear that.
As to Israel's relationship with the US following the speech, Netanyahu had this to say:
“I believe that Israel and the United States can reach agreements that are far more consistent than what this or that analyst would suggest."
Hmmm... very vague. Very non-specific. But certainly highly suggestive of some understanding between Israel and the US that has been reached or is coalescing. (IF this is so, by the way, it does suggest that Israel will not be acting unilaterally in the weeks ahead.)
And now, just days later, we find ourselves watching a situation unfold here in Israel that leaves any observer of the Israeli political scene just a tad startled:
For some time, Defense Minister Ehud Barak has been the one in the Israeli government with the closest relationship to Barack Obama, while the interaction between Netanyahu and the president has been one of veiled (or not so well-veiled) hostility. Often, it has been Barak who has gone to Washington to, in essence, run interference, or to play "good cop."
And now Netanyahu is accusing Barak of damaging US-Israel relations. Come again?
The backdrop to this is the possibility that Netanyahu may announce elections for the beginning of next year -- instead of waiting until October. He would be motivated to do so both by problems in passing the budget (for which Barak's party bears some responsibility) and by the fact that Netanyahu wants to take advantage of his rise in popularity since his UN speech.
I will not belabor all the political ins and outs here, as they may change by the time I write again. Barak is clearly staking out his own political territory. But, according to Israel Hayom, there is also this:
"Barak's office said that Barak had not changed his views on political, economic and military matters, that until now the basis for close cooperation between him and Netanyahu was their agreement to disagree on a variety of issues, and that the only change was Netanyahu's reaction."
We must ask, then, how much was actually achieved in Netanyahu's talk with Obama, and how much the prime minister is promoting his achievement for other reasons. That's a highly cynical question.
The flip side of this, of course, is the possibility that Netanyahu feels more confident in pushing up the elections precisely because he is flush with a sense of victory in having improved his relationship with the US.
And once all the talk of politics is said and done, we must also consider the simple possibility that because Netanyahu feels his interaction with Obama on a crucial matter has changed (or holds the promise of change), he is more inclined to be genuinely defensive of the US-Israel relationship.
In some quarters there are reports of instituting stronger sanctions against Iran -- this, in response to Netanyahu's talk. Iran is already hurting significantly, we're told.
HOWEVER... I must remind everyone that these sanctions have done absolutely nothing to slow down Iran's nuclear development. The Iranians seem prepared to bite the bullet and keep going.
As this is the case, responding by adding more sanctions may be a bit delusional. Not to mention that it begs the larger question of what the world really has to do now.
We're hearing it from various PA/PLO leaders: In addition to Mahmoud Abbas, Hanan Ashwari and Saeb Erekat. The PA is seeking support from a number of nations in the UN General Assembly and will be making its bid for a change in status on the historically significant date of November 29 (the date on which the UN GA voted to recommend partition of Palestine in 1947).
But the fact of the matter is that the nations of the EU are decidedly unenthusiastic about this move and it's definitely not a done deal.
Even those who have turned themselves into pretzels in order to support the Palestinian Arabs have got to be choking on the new PA line: That unilateral action at the UN would not harm the "peace process," but would, rather, give it a new life.
I provide here an example of what is -- in my opinion -- wrong-headed stubbornness with regard to support for Obama. Feisty Ed Koch, former mayor of New York and a loyal Democrat, had originally declared for Obama. But Obama's actions and policies concerning Israel turned him off and he declared he wasn't going to support Obama any longer. (You can see some of his biting critique of Obama in the video below.)
But that was before he was courted by the president. They had a meeting of some sort, and lo and behold, Koch was for Obama again. I thought it frustrating, but figured that was that.
But now Koch has given an interview to Fox News, in which he says, according to Yisrael Hayom, that:
"Obama has made the US look like 'a paper tiger' against Islamic violence around the world and that Obama's policy toward Israel is 'wrong.'
"Koch said he agrees with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that a red line should be drawn on Iran's nuclear program and that the U.S. should clearly declare that a violation of that red line would prompt an automatic American military response."
But he's still supporting Obama, and one has to wonder why he would -- in fact, considering his criticisms, how he could.
What did Obama say to him?
And how many other Americans are there like him -- Americans who in their hearts know that Obama is bad news but will vote for him anyway? Because, whatever.
Tonight is the first of the presidential debates that might determine the election. A great deal rides on these and the fervent hope from this quarter is for a very solid Romney win.
I've written today, and in my last post, about the hope held out that Netanyahu's speech and subsequent communication with the president may have brought a better US-Israeli relationship with regard to handling Iran. But this in no way mitigates all that has transpired in the past four years, and all that makes me uneasy about Obama and fearful in the extreme of what might occur in a second Obama term. For a recap of those past four years, see here:
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.