Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Third Muslim-World War? Could Israel Drag the U.S. into a War with Iran?

In 1997 Israeli agents tried to kill a Hamas leader, who was then in Jordan, by spraying an exotic poison in his ear. Unlike the killers of another Hamas official in Dubai in January this year, the ones in Jordan were caught. King Hussein of Jordan demanded the antidote from Netanyahu, as well as the release of another Hamas leader, and did not turn over the captured Mossad agents until he got them.
Christopher Dickey NewsweekBack when Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu was elected Israel's prime minister for the first time, in 1996, a Jordanian political scientist with a grim sense of humor said the only way to describe him was like a villain out of an old Western: "He's a lyin', cheatin', deceitin' son of a bitch!"
The Obama administration, without using quite such colorful language, might be inclined to agree. As Aluf Benn, the respected diplomatic correspondent for Israel's Haaretz newspaper wrote in these columns recently, when U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visited Israel last week, he "had come to offer not just friendship, but support (and protection) against Iran—Israel's greatest bogeyman—in exchange for a few concessions from Netanyahu. Instead, he got a finger in the eye."

The announcement of government-approved plans to build 1,600 new Israeli homes in largely Arab East Jerusalem was a direct challenge to Biden's efforts to move peace talks forward. The Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as the capital of their state, accuse the Israelis of using such projects to create "facts on the ground" that vastly complicate future negotiations—and, indeed, that is precisely the intent of many Israelis who support the building program.

But the problem as Benn presented it was more complex than that: a combination of brinkmanship and blackmail in which Netanyahu's government makes veiled threats to attack Iran, or not, depending on how much pressure it feels on the Palestinian issue.

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