Netanyahu speaks to 6 million Israelis and one man in America – analysis – Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reveals the Iranian nuclear bases uncovered by Israel, September 9

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reveals the Iranian nuclear bases uncovered by Israel, September 9 2019.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had two audiences in mind when he took the podium at the Foreign Ministry on Monday night and revealed the existence of another – previously unknown – nuclear weapons site in Iran.

The first audience was the Israeli people. Netanyahu is a week before the most critical election of his career. Reminding Israelis of how tough he is on Iran – how he exposed the Iranian nuclear archive last year and now another secret weapons site – will help his reelection campaign. There is nothing Israelis like more than feeling safe, and that is exactly what Netanyahu did on Monday night.

The second audience is one man in America, the resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Netanyahu left London on Friday after meeting with US Defense Secretary Mark Esper with a feeling that US President Donald Trump is going to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in two weeks.

He wants to try and stop that from happening.

The problem is that Netanyahu cannot launch a direct assault on Trump, something he had no problem doing just a few years ago when Barack Obama was president and the Israeli premier discovered that America was holding secret talks with the Iranians, negotiations that culminated in the controversial 2015 nuclear deal.

Netanyahu’s relationship with Trump is a key electoral asset for Netanyahu going in to the September 17 vote. For that reason, we see posters of the two men shaking hands on skyscrapers and billboards in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Netanyahu has long tried to show the Israeli public that only he can reap strategic benefits from this president, like the moving of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and more.

To attack Trump would be bad for Netanyahu. It would remind Israelis of how he fought with the two previous presidents he worked with – Obama and Bill Clinton. So, what can he do instead? Give addresses like this one, unmask Iran, reveal its true intentions (to get nuclear weapons) and hope that Trump has a change of heart.

Will it work? That remains to be seen.

The problem with the revelation on Monday night, though, is that once again, politicians are making use of secret and classified intelligence for political purposes. Netanyahu was the one who took credit for bombing the Iranian drone cell in Syria a few weeks ago, sparking the Hezbollah response that came last week. He was also the one who first violated Israel’s policy of ambiguity a few years ago, revealing that Israel was behind hundreds of bombings in Syria since the beginning of the civil war there in 2011.

As prime minister, he has the right to declassify intelligence and use it for diplomatic purposes, but two questions have to be asked: Why now? And why not present it to Trump privately?

The answer to the first question is the election next Tuesday. The answer to the second question might be that Netanyahu already has shown it to Trump and members of his administration, but that the private disclosure did not have the desired effect.

Netanyahu is hoping that by going public, conservative pundits in the US will use the revelation to call on Trump not to meet with Rouhani. Considering how sensitive Trump is to media coverage, a few negative reports on Fox News might be all it takes.

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