by Cheryl Rofer
Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's new prime minister, gave Jeffrey Goldberg a fiery interview.
Most of the interview isn't that new; Netanyahu has said this sort of thing before. It's the fact that he is now Israel's prime minister that is disturbing.
Netanyahu wants the United States to end Iran's nuclear ambitions - now! He is willing to allow Barack Obama to engage Iran rather than bomb it initially, but the time is short. Netanyahu didn't actually say that he'd bomb Iran; Goldberg quotes members of the Israeli military anonymously on their capability to do that.
Netanyahu's brief on Iran sounds like the worst of Dick Cheney's one percent doctrine.
People say that they’ll behave like any other nuclear power. Can you take the risk? Can you assume that?And he's fixated on the irrationality of the mullahs, but when Goldberg corners him on whether they would risk their own annihilation, Netanyahu responds, "I’m not going to get into that."
There are no specifics: America must stop Iran in "months, not years," and the famous red line remains undefined, although there are murmurings of the business about Iran's having enough uranium for a bomb without actually resorting to those inaccuracies.
And Goldberg seems to share the assumption that the Iranian nuclear program is all about making a bomb, something that remains to be shown. Although there are suspicions, the Iranians have been doing things by the book for the past few years.
So the flaming rhetoric about the Iranian leadership and the demands on the Obama administration are the core of what Netanyahu said. It's not nice to demand that one's patron take a particular action, but Israel has been doing that now for some time. This is the highest level at which that demand has been made this specifically.
Throughout the rest of the interview, Netanyahu ducks and weaves about Israel's responsibilities for peace with the Palestinians, turning the spotlight back to Iran whenever he can. This suggests part of the motivation for the noise about Iran, that Netanyahu would prefer that Israel not have any responsibilities at all in this area.
Kevin Drum makes a good point: that Israel most likely doesn't have the capability to take out the Iranian nuclear facilities. But that wouldn't keep them from creating quite a mess.
Updated (04/02/09): Defense Secretary Gates tries to calm things down. He's effectively saying he doesn't believe Netanyahu's bluster.