Netanyahu should understand that no country can allow another to impose the conditions under which it will go to war. The Israeli leader wants a tripwire that would trigger military action. But presidents don’t turn over that power of war and peace, even to their best friends. Indeed, it’s precisely because Obama means what he says about going to war that he wants maximum flexibility in how and when he takes action.
The Israeli leader also ought to realize by now that Obama doesn’t like to be jammed. That’s the most interesting revelation of Bob Woodward’s new book, “The Price of Politics.” The book describes how Obama was prepared to risk a financial default last year in preference to giving congressional Republicans a chance to create another debt-ceiling crisis during the 2012 election year. “He could not give the Republicans that kind of leverage. . . . It was blackmail,” explains Woodward.
In the White House view, Netanyahu is trying to do the same thing that House Speaker John Boehner attempted, and this isn’t likely to work. And officials are surely peeved that Netanyahu is making such comments (and pushing for a personal meeting) in the middle of the U.S. election campaign.
The danger of these months of semi-public Israeli debate about going to war is that, rather than making Tehran tremble, they may lead Iranian leaders to doubt Israeli resolve.