Just a few weeks ago, President Obama was on the brink of attacking Syria. After a failed selling of the war, we now have a diplomatic deal, and Syria disarming its chemical weapons program. For the first time in years, Iranian diplomacy also looks like it might be going somewhere, with reformist President Rouhani driving the effort. Very much in spite of US bellicosity, diplomacy seems to be breaking out all over, and that’s making hawks very nervous.
Enter Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, heading to New York for his own UN General Assembly address, and planning to meet with Obama as well. His message is going to be one of war and hostility, angrily condemning the diplomatic momentum. It’s not expected to be well received.
The Netanyahu government has made no bones about its opposition to diplomacy, particularly toward Iran, and for years has aimed to undermine the process any time it looks like progress might be made. With the process happening so fast, subtlety is expected to fly out the window, and Netanyahu will be openly trying to revoke the perceived Israeli imprimatur for Iran talks.
Reports from Israeli media say Netanyahu will confront Obama and demand an end to diplomacy with Iran unless the nation agrees to fully and immediately ditch its entire civilian nuclear program, something Obama has repeatedly conceded Iran has a right to. He will reportedly threaten to attack Iran unilaterally if the US doesn’t back down.
Domestically, Israel’s government has been divided on a lot of things, but apart from Yair Lapid, the ministers seem pretty much universally opposed to diplomacy, and on board for anything restoring the path to an Iran war.
After Rouhani’s conciliatory, pro-diplomacy speech at the UN last week, Netanyahu’s address is expected to lay out a starkly different world-view, centered around distrust and a belief that anything but constant escalation of war rhetoric is inherently dangerous. Which will win out remains to be seen, but it’s a battle that will continue long beyond the General Assembly’s session.