Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic interviewed Bibi Netanyahu about U.S.-Israeli cooperation on Iran in the Knesset cafeteria today on his way to being voted in to be Prime Minister of Israel. Goldberg's report of the interview should be read in its entirety here. Here are some key excerpts.
"Netanyahu to Obama: Stop Iran—Or I Will
"The message from Israel's new prime minister is stark: if the Obama administration doesn't prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons, Israel may be forced to attack. In an interview conducted shortly before he was sworn in today as prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu laid down a challenge for Barack Obama. The American president, he said, must stop Iran from acquiring nuclear
weapons—and quickly—or an imperiled Israel may be forced to attack Iran's nuclear facilities itself. Netanyahu said he would support President Obama's decision to engage Iran, so long as negotiations brought about a quick end to Iran's nuclear ambitions.... In an hour-long conversation, held in the Knesset, Netanyahu tempered his aggressive rhetoric with an acknowledgement that nonmilitary pressure could yet work. "I think the Iranian economy is very weak, which makes Iran susceptible to sanctions that can be ratcheted up by a variety of means." ..."Iran is a composite leadership, but in that composite leadership there are elements of wide-eyed fanaticism that do not exist right now in any other would-be nuclear power in the world. That's what makes them so dangerous." He went on, "Since the dawn of the nuclear age, we have not had a fanatic regime that might put its zealotry above its self-interest. People say that they'll behave like any other nuclear power. Can you take the risk? Can you assume that?" ...Neither Netanyahu nor his principal military advisers would suggest a deadline for American progress on the Iran nuclear program, though one aide said pointedly that Israeli time lines are now drawn in months, "not years." These same military advisers told me that they believe Iran's defenses remain penetrable, and that Israel would not necessarily need American approval to launch an attack. "The problem is not military capability, the problem is whether you have the stomach, the political will, to take action," one of his advisers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told me. ...The Israeli threat to strike Iran militarily if the West fails to stop the nuclear program may, of course, be a tremendous bluff. After all, such threats may just be aimed at motivating President Obama and others to grapple urgently with the problem. But Netanyahu and his advisers seem to believe sincerely that Israel would have difficulty surviving in a Middle East dominated by a nuclear Iran. And they are men predisposed to action; many, like Netanyahu, are former commandos."