Israeli Premier Binyamin Netanyahu delivered his first foreign policy speech since taking office two and a half months ago at Bar Ilan University this week, the eyes of the world were fixed on him as millions watched the latest episode in the drama of Middle Eastern politics unfold. The speech has been so highly scrutinized that as a columnist going to print three days later, there is precious little to say that hasn’t already been said.
As Netanyahu made clear at the very beginning of his speech that “the greatest danger confronting Israel, the Middle East, the entire world and human race, is the nexus between radical Islam and nuclear weapons.” This topic of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weaponry was a glaring omission in President Obama’s speech in Cairo a week ago that concerned many the world over.
Obama’s position on Iran was underscored further by a relevant story that also broke this week, and seemed to float under the radar for the most part, namely that Dennis Ross, who most recently served as a special State Department envoy to Iran, will abruptly be relieved of his duties.
The Obama administration will announce that Ross has been reassigned to another position in the White House. In his new post, the former Mideast peace envoy under President Bill Clinton will deal primarily with regional issues related to the peace process.
Washington insiders speculate that a number of reasons moved the administration to reassign Ross. One possibility is Iran’s persistent refusal to accept Ross as a U.S. emissary given the diplomat’s Jewish background as well as his purported pro-Israel leanings. Ross is known to maintain contacts with numerous senior officials in Israel’s defense establishment and the Israeli government.
Diplomatic sources in Jerusalem surmised that another possibility for Ross’ ouster is his just-released book, “Myths, Illusions, and Peace - Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East.”
Ross, who co-wrote the book with David Makovsky, a former journalist who is a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, argued against a linkage between the Palestinian issue and the West’s policy against Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Ross and Mokovsky also raised the possibility of military action against Iran, and pour skepticism on the possible success of diplomatic engagement.
With the removal of the one man in the right position who is more focused on the bottom line with Iran, there seems to be no firm challenge in the administration to Obama’s diplomatic dialogue policy. It is evident that Israel for the umpteenth time stands alone in the face an existential threat.
As of now judging by the reaction of the Palestinian “leadership” to Netanyahu’s speech that largely consisted of juvenile name calling, it isn’t likely that there will be much movement on the Palestinian front for the meantime.
This will make it easier for Netanyahu and his government to now focus all their energy on this bigger and more immediate looming threat of Iran, and although Israel may once again be forced to go it alone, Netanyahu must muster up all the support he can get, drawing world attention to the colossal danger in every way possible.
Netanyahu has already reached out to South American countries this week, and there are plans to put more focus on Africa, one thing Obama does seem to respond to is the sentiment of public opinion, the Israeli’s must focus all their efforts on this. Perhaps Netanyahu has touched a chord with his clear and definitive outlining of the threat that Israel and the world faces and the American public will prove to be Israel’s ally against the Iran in showing the president that they disapprove of his ineffective methods. As Winston Churchill famously said, “Americans can always be relied on to do the right thing, once they have exhausted all other possibilities”
Netanyahu concluded his speech by saying “with God’s help, we will know no more war. We will know peace.” This is the first time in as long as I can remember that an Israeli premier mentioned G-d in a public speech. According to Jewish law when lives are at stake, G-d’s laws are almost always pushed aside. Certainly Obama’s should be also.