The Corner

Bibi, the Begin Doctrine, and the U.S.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a speech on Monday at the AIPAC conference reinforcing the Begin Doctrine — the preemptive-military-strike doctrine of Israel’s government since the early 1980s. This week marks the 20th anniversary of the death of former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin. His administration declared that Israel’s “determination to prevent confrontation states . . . from gaining access to nuclear weapons” will be applied to hostile countries seeking to develop nuclear arms.

Bibi Netanyahu said Israel cannot “accept a world in which the Ayatollahs have atomic bombs.” With those words Netanyahu issued the 2012 version of the Begin doctrine. In short, in light of the Holocaust and the lethal anti-Semitism of the clerical regime in Tehran, Israel cannot tolerate the toxic combination of weapons of mass destruction with a regime determined to “wipe Israel off the map.”

The Begin Doctrine has been implemented twice in the young history of the Jewish state. In June 1981, Israel launched Operation Opera, sending eight F-16 fighter jets to destroy the Osirak nuclear reactor outside Baghdad. After two minutes of precision bombing, the reactor was reduced to a pile of rubble. In September 2007, Israeli jets launched Operation Orchard, targeting Syria’s secret nuclear facility at al-Kibar.

Unlike Syria and Iraq, the Iranians have scattered multiple nuclear-weapons installations across their territory. An out-of-control regime in Tehran that shows no hesitation to repeatedly call for Israel’s abolition (and murders U.S. soldiers in Lebanon, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan), animated Bibi’s efforts to go to great lengths in Washington to convey the murderous nature of Iran’s regime.

President Obama’s military-option policy does not bode well for the security of the Middle East region, largely because he seems to have no timeline to force Iran’s regime to definitively stop the enrichment of weapons-grade uranium. In short, President Obama is still mainly fixated on diplomacy. While the Mullahs move at a rapid-fire pace to develop nuclear weapons devices, Israel and the panic-stricken Sunni states have to consider other means to end Iran’s drive to obtain nukes. Recall it was the Wikileaks cables that revealed Saudi King Abdullah’s desire to “cut off the head of the snake” in Iran in order to stop Tehran’s atomic program

As my veteran Jerusalem Post colleague, Herb Keinon, highlighted in his analysis, Bibi did not issue any new policies in Washington, but rather in his Canada visit. According to Keinon:

There was no new policy in Netanyahu’s speech. One could argue that the most important policy statement Netanyahu made during his five day trip to North America, was not in the speech to AIPAC, nor in his public comments before his meeting with US President Barack Obama, but rather in a short press conference in Ottawa standing next to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

There he laid down the three terms that Israel felt the Iranians needed to meet before meriting engagement by the international community: the closure of the nuclear facility at Qoms, the ending of uranium enrichment, and the removal of all uranium enriched beyond 3.5 percent.

It is not likely that Bibi will deviate from the goal of the Begin Doctrine. The open question is, will President Obama really have “Israel’s back”? Given that President Obama announced after his meeting with Bibi that the meaning of having “Israel’s back” does not imply a military doctrine, Israel should be justifiably worried about whether it can rely on its most important Western ally. It is worth reading Adam Kredo’s important piece on Obama’s flip-flops.

— Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a correspondent with the Jerusalem Post.

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