On Iran, Peres Defies Obama

by Brien Jackson

I didn’t have anything original to add when President Obama issued a polite holiday message to Iran, opening the door to rapproachment, so I didn’t bother to say anything. Similarly, the Iranian response was fairly pretty predictable, and the exchange is rather small bore anyway. The Iranians certainly have a fair point that the gesture is meaningless without some sort of change in policy, especially considering it is official US policy to support “regime change” in Iran. What will matter going forward is what, if any, changes the US makes as towards Tehran, and how the rest of the world, particularly Europe and Russia, respond.

That said, the apparent reaction of Israeli President Shimon Peres really is quite interesting. Peres continued the practice of “speaking directly to the Iranian people,” and urging them to rise up against the Iranian government. The move is being taken as a direct slight towards Obama, and, honestly, I don’t know how else to read it. And this is another example, I think, of how truly isolated Israel is willfully becoming in the global community. It’s certainly possible, of course, that Peres assumes that American public opinion is more closely aligns with AIPAC than with the President (and the Weekly Standard certainly leapt to the cause), but I find it rather unlikely that Peres just assumes out of hand that the popular President’s position on a relatively high profile foreign policy matter is wildly out of line with the consensus of American public opinion. Far more likely, I think, is that he doesn’t care, or is hoping to force Obama int a more concillatory (to Israel) position. And yes, this is as reckless as it sounds. Israel can tolerate deep unopularity in Europe, so long as the United States remains an unflinching ally, but it certainly can’t afford to damage relations with the United States. And yet, as the American public, and the American government, becomes increasingly committed to a two-state solution that will require concessions on Israel’s part, and a slightly more sane Middle Eastern policy, at least where Iran is concerned, Israel has moved quite a bit to the right, and will now have a government led by Bibi Netanyahu, who thinks Iran is a more pressing issue than the global economy, and features Avigdor Lieberman as Foreign Minister.

In other words, Israel is really playing with fire, at best assuming the neoconservative position is much more popular than it is in the U.S., at worst deciding their willing to gamble their relations with their only ally of consequence in the name of holding the line on Iran.

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