Some Israeli journalism outlets have been publishing stories about the possibility that Israel will attack Iran before the U.S. presidential election in November. However, it’s much more likely that Israel is all talk.
The Times of Israel recently published an article about a news story on Israeli television which claimed that that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is determined to attack Iran before the election. Some writers have even been so bold as to claim that it will happen in October.
One could see how Netanyahu might think that this move would benefit his grand strategy. The logic might go that an attack on Iran would force the Obama administration to help Israel, given that all sides know Israel doesn’t have the military might to finish the job alone. If President Obama did not back Israel up, it would make him look weak in the eyes of pro-Israel voters. Those voters, who have considerable clout, could almost certainly provide Mitt Romney with a large boost right before election day, since his stance has always been unabashedly pro-Israel. In an election this close, President Obama can’t afford to lose the votes.
But Netanyahu doesn’t want Obama to have a second term. The two have a tepid relationship at best, and if President Obama remains in office, he won’t have a reason to play nice with Israel since he will no longer be facing the pressure of re-election.
Since it is well known that President Obama is not a fan of Netanyahu’s policies regarding the Palestinians, it would behoove Netanyahu not to force Obama into attacking Iran, something the U.S. administration is not ready to do, in order to avoid future repercussions should Obama be reelected.
Netanyahu’s best bet is to hold out for Mitt Romney to take a seat in the Oval Office come November, since he and his foreign policy team have a much better relationship with the Jewish State.
A Romney presidency would all but give Israel a green light to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, as the chance that the U.S. would back up the decision would be substantially higher. Although new presidents historically don’t like to undertake major military operations within their first year in office, Romney would be all but forced to put his money where his mouth is on the Iran issue. If he didn’t, he would face a lot of angry Jewish and Christian voters come reelection season.
But Netanyahu is a pro when it comes to pulling the strings of the American political system. He knows that striking Iran and dragging the U.S. into the war will make Obama look good in the eyes of pro-Israel voters.
However, if the American president had the wherewithal to not involve the U.S. in the mission, Israel would find itself in over its head with Iran very quickly — another thing Netanyahu knows, but would never admit publicly. Given the almost inevitable fact that the mission would be a bust for Israel and carry significant negative consequences, the Obama administration might actually look stronger precisely for not involving the country in another mindless war — again, bad news for Netanyahu.
So will Israel strike Iran? To some it seems inevitable, but I highly doubt it will happen before the U.S. election in November.
The chances of a strike backfiring on the Netanyahu administration are too great. If Mitt Romney wins the election, they will be in a perfect place to do as they wish. Despite the urgency of its rhetoric, Israel knows it has time to deal with Iran,. Waiting it out a few more months to let the political dust settle is the most pragmatic approach, regardless of how reckless Netanyahu can be.