article

05.18.09

Why Israel Won't Bomb Iran—This Year

The most important thing to come out of Obama’s meeting with the Israeli prime minister was the president’s declaration that he wants to talk to Iran until the end of the year. And so long as he’s talking to Tehran, Israel can’t attack.

The first meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as leaders of the United States and Israel, has resulted in one unspoken headline: There is hardly any chance that Israel will bomb Iran this year.

Obama for the first time specified that he wants to talk to Iran until the end of this year—and then assess whether there has been any progress.

At the White House on Monday, Netanyahu publicly thanked Obama for keeping all “options on the table,” the current euphemism for a possible military strike aimed at Iranian nuclear facilities. Obama, however, for the first time specified that he wants to talk to the Islamic Republic of Iran until the end of this year—and then assess whether there has been any progress.

The leaders of Israel’s new government have clearly stated they will not get in Obama’s way in his desire to engage with Iran. The Israelis strongly doubt that such efforts will work—and certainly clandestine activities by the Mossad will continue, as will planning by Israel’s air force—but it is an extremely important part of Israel’s foreign and defense policies not to anger the president of the United States. So long as Obama is talking with Tehran (assuming that Iran agrees to start talks after that country’s national election on June 12), he will not give the green light to an Israeli attack.

Dan Raviv is host of a radio magazine, The CBS News Weekend Roundup, and author of a book on U.S.-Israel relations, Friends in Deed, and a bestseller on Israeli intelligence, Every Spy a Prince.