Besides an Iranian bomb, the greatest threat to Israel’s existence is diminished support from its long-time ally, the United States. What is astonishing about the National Intelligence Estimate the United States declassified in December is that while shamefully denying the existence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, Washington simultaneously managed to nuke what remained of its strategic alliance with Israel.
Could it possibly get any worse for the Jewish state?
As recently as October 17, President Bush warned, “We’ve got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel. … [I]f you’re interested in avoiding World War iii, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.”
But with the release of the nie, everyone from the Bush administration to the New York Times editorial board to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad all breathed a collective sigh of relief—even if for different reasons.
Israel, though, is not relieved. It is deeply concerned—and now, very alone. Israel’s top officials were quick to reject the nie assessment. Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel’s Army Radio that while Iran may have momentarily stopped its nuclear weapons program, it has since been revived. When asked if America’s new assessment, which directly contradicted its own 2005 estimate, now diminishes the chances of a U.S. preemptive strike against Iran’s weapons facilities, Barak admitted that that was possible.
Other Israeli sources, according to Haaretz, assessed the situation more bluntly, saying “the Bush administration appears to have lost its sense of urgency regarding Iran’s nuclear program, making a military strike in 2008 increasingly unlikely” (Dec. 4, 2007).
Ron Prosor, Israel’s new ambassador to Britain and one of Prime Minister Olmert’s leading experts on Iran’s nuclear weapons program, said this in an interview with London’s Daily Telegraph, “At the current rate of progress Iran will reach the technical threshold for producing fissile material by 2009.
“This is a global threat and it requires a global response. It should be made clear that if Iran does not cooperate then military confrontation is inevitable. It is either cooperation or confrontation” (Dec. 7, 2007).
While that may still be true, the transformative event from December now means Israel stands alone in being prepared to use force to confront the Iranian threat. And if the United States is no longer justified in preemptively striking Iran, what do you suppose world opinion would be after an Israeli strike? If American intelligence thinks Iran froze its nuclear program, a former Israeli military intelligence official told the New York Times, “that makes it harder for Israel to go against it” (Dec. 5, 2007).
Describing Israel’s lonely position in a Haaretz column on December 5, Amos Harel wrote, “Over the last year, a certain hope has developed in Israel that the U.S. would do our dirty work for us …. Yesterday, from talking to a number of senior officials in the defense establishment, you could sense this hope had been buried in the wake of the report.”
The sad truth is that while purporting to prove that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003, in actual fact, the National Intelligence Estimate proves America has abandoned Israel.