In today's Israel, the overwhelming majority is now convinced Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is synonymous with a 2nd holocaust. "We stood idly by as we were led to slaughter in Hitler's concentration camps and gas chambers in the 1930s and 40s," is a refrain frequently heard in Israel these days, "but never again." In a New Year's Day message, superhawk and former Prime Minister Netanyahu Binyamin accused Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of the kind of appeasement that threatened Israel's very existence.
Ahmadinejad recently held an international conference of holocaust deniers. And Israelis are now reminded daily that the Iranian president is a new Hitler who has to be terminated "with maximum prejudice" before a Persian nuclear weapon terminates Israel. The existential threat to Israel looms even larger, in Netanyahu's view, with the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group (ISG) report. His critique's main points:
• The ISG report smacks of rank appeasement when it recommends talking to Syria and Iran at a time when Iran has been handed the whip hand in Iraq by the U.S. with a U.S.-facilitated, pro-Iranian Shiite-led government.
• ISG says a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a sine qua non to stabilizing the rest of the Middle East. The implied suggestion that it's now up to Israel to make further concessions to the Palestinians is yet another manifestation of appeasement. Israel must reject any perceived sign of weakness.
• In reality, if the problem of Iran, which Israel's enemies call "the strategic backbone of Hezbollah and Hamas," were solved by the forceful elimination of its nuclear facilities, or a highly unlikely voluntary return to nuclear power for peaceful purposes under U.N. inspection, the conflict with the Palestinians would become easier to tackle.
• Hezbollah and Hamas are rapidly arming themselves thanks to the Israeli government's decision to refrain from further action against them. Since the cease-fire was declared, dozens of Kassam rockets have been fired at targets in the western Negev.
• If Olmert's government reacts limply to Iran's statements about its intentions to destroy Israel, "why should we expect the world to act against them?"
• ISG says, "The majority of the political establishment in Israel has grown tired of a continuous state of a nation at war." When even Israel's leadership sends out a message of fatigue and weakness, "why should we be surprised that the world agrees?"
Netanyahu then said Israel "must immediately launch an intense, international, public relations front first and foremost on the U.S. The goal being to encourage President Bush to live up to specific pledges he would not allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons. We must make clear to the government, the Congress and the American public that a nuclear Iran is a threat to the U.S. and the entire world, not only Israel."
There are signs this is already happening in Washington. Before the invasion of Iraq, the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld troika decided the ousting of Saddam Hussein had to become an integral part of the "war on terror." Eventually 60 percent of Americans thought Saddam was behind 9/11, even though there was no link between the two. Today, the Bush-Cheney team faces the same spin scenario: how to weave the global war on terror and the Shiite powers that be in Iran. This one is relatively simple: Iran trains and funds Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Palestinian territories.
Anticipating the new line, Sen. Joe Lieberman (Independent-CT) referred to "Iran and al-Qaida" on Wolf Blitzer's Sunday program on CNN. That Iran is Shiite and al-Qaida Sunni becomes irrelevant in the new game plan that will most probably lead to U.S. air strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities in 2007/08. Can a Democratic Congress be bypassed under a blanket authorization already secured to hunt down transnational terrorists wherever they may be hiding?
The "neocons" who work closely with Netanyahu on what could be the next phase of a nascent regional war in the Middle East, say Bush has the authority to take out Iran's nuclear threat. Because it has only one purpose -- to take out Israel. One Hiroshima-type nuclear weapon and Israel ceases to exit.
There is little doubt president Bush's geopolitical legacy as it stands today is unacceptable to someone who identifies with Winston Churchill roaring against appeasement in the 1930s. Iraq is either an unmitigated or mitigated disaster. And year-end analyses widely published at home and abroad listed Bush among the four worst presidents in U.S. history.
And if Bush doesn't take on Iran, prominent Israelis are speculating that president Clinton 2 (Hillary) will do so. Oded Tira, the chairman of Israel's Association of Industrial Manufacturers, and former chief artillery office in the IDF, said, "Bush lacks the political power to attack Iran. As an American air strike in Iran is essential for our existence, we must help pave the way by lobbying the Democratic Party, which is conducting itself foolishly, and U.S. newspaper editors."
Writing in Ynet News (online Yedioth Ahronoth), Tira said, "We need to turn the Iranian issue to a bipartisan one and unrelated to the Iraq failure. Hillary Clinton and other potential presidential candidates in the Democratic Party (must) publicly support immediate action by Bush again Iran."
As for target Iran, Tira voiced widespread belief in Israel that the Jewish state must coordinate strikes with the U.S. -- "and prepare for the Iranian response." Fearless forecast: It will be formidable.
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