Netanyahu Needs to Back Off, Says Notre Dame Political Scientist

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Michael Desch

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed outrage at the refusal of the Obama administration to set “red lines” for Iran’s progress on its nuclear program. But according to University of Notre Dame Political Science Professor Michael Desch, it is Americans who ought to be incensed with Netanyahu.

“By insisting on ‘red lines’ and threatening to launch a unilateral strike on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, Netanyahu is trying to commit the United States to fighting a preventive war on Israel’s behalf,” says Desch, an expert on international security, foreign and defense policies.

“In effect, he is demanding that the United States do far more to protect Israel’s security than it does for any of its other allies.”

Netanyahu is also inserting himself into a U.S. presidential campaign to a degree unprecedented for the leader of a close American ally, implicitly echoing the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s charge that the Obama administration is “throwing Israel under the bus,” according to Desch.

“To fully appreciate the audacity of Netanyahu’s demand for still more open-ended American security assurances, it is crucial to recognize just how committed to Israel’s security the United States already is,” Desch says.

“The United States provides Israel with extraordinary levels of economic, diplomatic, and especially military support. Not only does the United States have Israel’s back—it has its front, top, and bottom, too,” adds Desch.

Rather than succumbing to Netanyahu’s pressure, U.S. leaders should use the country’s generous military support for Israel to advance core U.S. interests. Desch believes, for example, they should make it clear that additional pressure on Iran (and additional aid packages for Israel) will not be forthcoming until Israel takes significant and concrete steps toward the creation of a viable Palestinian state, the stated goal of the past three U.S. administrations.

“At a minimum, the United States should not allow anyone to push it into a corner on Iran. The only red line the Americans ought to set at the moment applies not to Iran but to the Israeli leadership, which should stay out of American domestic politics and not try to drag the United States into an unnecessary war.”

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