Why Israel is keeping the U.S. in the dark about its Iran plans

Israel has reason to deceive the United States regarding its own intentions. The Obama administration has consistently delivered two clear messages to Israel’s leaders regarding Iran’s nuclear program: First, Israel should not contemplate a strike on the program; second, the United States takes responsibility for deterring Iran or, in the event that fails, retarding the program itself. Many in the U.S. government, including both in the administration and the U.S. military, would be livid with Israel’s leaders if they unilaterally attack Iran. So Israel, if it indeed decides to act on its own, would have reason to keep that intent hidden from the United States.

Israel might also want to make the United States think it will attack Iran in order to precipitate more-aggressive U.S. action. Israel has a capability problem regarding any potential attack on Iran — namely, it lacks the long-range stealth bombers and in-flight refueling capability that the United States has. As a result, an Israeli air strike on Iran might well involve the entire Israeli Air Force, which would then need to hurry back to Israel to prepare to strike targets in Lebanon and Gaza in the event of a counterattack by Iranian proxy groups. For reasons of capability alone, Israel would much prefer the U.S. Navy and Air Force to carry out a military operation against Iran…

In an ideal world, of course, Israel would care most about what its closest ally thinks. And it does, to a point. But breaking a pattern established for decades, in which Israeli leaders suffered politically for having poor relations with an American president, Netanyahu has gained political capital from standing up to U.S. President Barack Obama on settlement construction in the West Bank. And whatever Israeli leaders hear from the Obama administration and the U.S. military is tempered by what they hear from the U.S. Congress, where the rhetoric regarding Israel is such that one could be forgiven for not knowing which country was the generous benefactor and which the dependent ally.

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