New York Times columnist Roger Cohen urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to refrain from attacking Iran "this spring or summer" if he cares about his "dysfunctional relationship" with US President Barack Obama.
In an article published in the American daily on Monday, Cohen said a US ambassador in Europe was recently asked by an Israeli counterpart what could be done to improve the "lousy relations" between Netanyahu and Obama. He replied: “Every once in a while, say thank you.”
According to the senior columnist, the American ambassador added, “Maybe, once in a while, ask the president if there’s anything you can do for him. And above all stay out of our election-year politics.”
Netanyahu and Obama in digitally-altered Iranian photo
Cohen said the sharp reply "reflects Obama’s fury at several things: the way Netanyahu has gone over his head to a Republican-dominated Congress where he is a darling; Netanyahu’s ingratitude for solid US support, including the veto of an anti-settlements resolution at the United Nations last year and opposition to the unilateral Palestinian pursuit of statehood; the delaying tactics of Netanyahu reflecting his conviction Obama is likely a one-term president; and Netanyahu’s refusal to pause a second time in settlement building for the sake of peace negotiations."
The op-ed states that Netanyahu is "tempted to bomb Iran in the next several months to set back its opaque nuclear program and - despite a call from Obama last Thursday and messages from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta - has declined to reassure the United States that he will not."
"I would add a further piece of advice to Netanyahu if he cares about his dysfunctional relationship with Obama — and he should because Israelis know the United States matters and might be disinclined to re-elect a man who has poisoned relations with Washington. That advice is: Do not attack Iran this spring or summer," Cohen wrote.
According to the columnist, an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities a few months before the US election in November would "stymie" Obama. The US president "would be in no position to express anger given the clout of the pro-Israel lobby, the important Jewish vote in Florida and the fulsome support any Israeli bombing would get from the Republican contender — probably Mitt Romney," Cohen claimed.
"By contrast, a re-elected Obama would, as a second-term president, have room to mark his displeasure if Israel was to go it alone. Because awareness is growing that Obama could indeed win, these considerations carry weight in Jerusalem," he wrote.
Cohen added: "Don’t go there, Mr. Netanyahu. It would be a terrible mistake. Choosing between the United States and Iran is a no-brainer. One is a great power and essential friend. The other is a blustering, combustible society that’s been tinkering with a nuclear program for decades and whose closest regional ally, Syria, is on the brink."
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