No sooner had the airplane carrying U.S. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney lifted off last week from Ben-Gurion Airport than the airplane carrying U.S. Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta touched down.
Romney’s visit was cosmetic, a photo and fundraising opportunity in his campaign for the White House. Panetta’s visit, on the other hand, was a working trip, with messages in hand from the White House.
Panetta met with President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defence Ehud Barak. When the video cameras were not rolling and the photographers had left, the pressing subject on the table was Iran.
The calendar is closing in on the West’s efforts to stop the Iranians from actually building a nuclear weapon and on Israel’s narrower, shorter-term focus of stopping the Iranians from acquiring the capability to build a nuclear weapon. Iranian scientists and their political and military overseers are working without relent to get to their nuclear platform even as the U.S. presidential elections, now less than three months away, inexorably approach.
Weighty, horrible decisions must soon be made.
American legislators commendably agreed last month to impose further sanctions upon Tehran. Yet there is an increasingly uneasy sense among western governments that sanctions and diplomacy are failing to convince the Iranian leaders to stop their nuclear weapons program. Even former Mossad head Efraim Halevy, a proponent of restraint against Iran, has publicly acknowledged that sanctions have thus far been futile and that Israel’s critical moment of decision is quickly approaching.
The American administration is well aware of the shortening horizon on the Iran file. Panetta spoke forcefully and unambiguously on the subject during his visit in Jerusalem. “I want to reassert again the position of the United States that with regards to Iran, we will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, period. We will not allow them to develop a nuclear weapon, and we will exert all options in the effort to ensure that that does not happen.”
But as some Israeli commentators pointed out, Israel must act before an Iranian nuclear weapon appears. The Jewish state must act to prevent current Iranian leaders from having the capability of building the weapon. And if there is still any doubt why this is so, one need only refer to the remarks last week by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a group of visiting ambassadors from Islamic countries.
“Any freedom lover and justice seeker in the world must do its best for the annihilation of the Zionist regime [our emphasis] in order to pave the path for the establishment of justice and freedom in the world.”
Now more than ever, countries that revere peace and world stability must act immediately to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons capability. There is little time left.