The White House used plenty of other tools to pressure Jerusalem. For instance, leaks. Virtually every time Israel struck an Iranian arms depot in Syria or a convoy destined for Hezbollah, an administration official leaked it to the press. The White House understood that publicizing these strikes would embarrass Bashar al-Assad or Hassan Nasrallah and thereby push them to retaliate against Israel. That was the point of the leaks: to keep Israel tentative and afraid of taking matters into its own hands.
Another instrument of pressure was military and security cooperation between Israel and the White House—the strongest and closest the two countries have ever enjoyed, say Obama advocates. It allowed administration officials to keep even closer watch on what the Israelis were up to, while trying to make Jerusalem ever more dependent on the administration for its own security.
Don’t worry, Obama told Israel: I’ve got your back. I don’t bluff. The Iranians won’t get a bomb. And besides, the real problem in the region, the White House said time and again, is Israeli settlements. It’s the lack of progress between Jerusalem and Ramallah that destabilizes the region. As John Kerry said recently, the stalled Arab-Israeli peace process is what gave rise to the Islamic State.
From the White House’s perspective, then, Israel is the source of regional instability. Iran, on the other hand, is a force for stability. It is a rational actor, Obama has explained, pursuing its own interests. The White House, moreover, shares some of those interests—like rolling back the Islamic State.