Ilan Manor
The Jerusalem Post (Opinion)
December 8, 2011 - 1:00am

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in love. Not with a person or an idea, but with a party. The Republican Party. Ever since he took office, Netanyahu has found himself attracted to the GOP. Now, the attraction has blossomed into love. The prime minister has been swept off his feet by the parade of dashing Republican candidates courting him and offering to take care of Iran, an issue he has struggled with for more than two years.It’s like the old song lyrics, “Heaven/ I’m in heaven/ and my heart beats/ so that I can hardly speak...”

When it comes to a nuclear Iran, Netanyahu is like a damsel in distress. While he has stated in the past that Israel would deal with Iran by itself if forced to, he knows this to be untrue. Experts agree that even a successful Israeli attack would only delay Tehran’s nuclear ambitions by a year or two, and would come at a high price.

Thus, the prime minister is using scare tactics in order to nudge other world leaders into action. Like any damsel, he is pinning his hopes on the kindness of strangers.

Currently, Netanyahu is an arranged marriage with US President Barak Obama. But this is a relationship built on mistrust and suspicion. Like Michele Bachmann, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, he believes that Obama has adopted a policy of appeasement toward Iran. Americans want Obama to be tough on crime; Netanyahu wants Obama to be tough on Iran.

The prime minister hopes that come November 2012 the American voters will, a la Fiddler on the Roof, “match him a match, find him a find, catch him a catch” – a good Republican shidduch that would enable Mr. Netanyahu to take his relationship with the GOP to the next level, blissful matrimony. A strike on Iran would serve as the honeymoon.

BUT LOVE, as they say, is blind. In Netanyahu’s case this might prove to be true. Recent polls in the US show that President Obama has a good chance of winning the next elections. Several national polls place him ahead of all Republican candidates. In the case of Mitt Romney it’s a small lead, but the president is much farther ahead of Newt Gingrich.

Even if a Republican is voted into office, there is no guarantee he would become Netanyahu’s knight in shining armor. In fact, the field of Republican candidates seem to be moving in the opposite direction. In a recent National Security Debate held in Washington, the contenders all took a step back from the Iranian cliff.

Ron Paul, the congressman from the great state of Texas, declared that he would oppose a US military strike in Iran. In his opinion, America should simply butt out and let Israel take care of itself. To quote Al Pacino in the movie Scent of a Woman – whoa! While Paul may be the odd man out in the Republican race, the other candidates agreed that it was too soon to talk about a military campaign in the Persian Gulf.

Republican front-runner and former speaker of the house Newt Gingrich said the US should focus on changing the regime in Iran with as little force as possible. Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, would settle for sanctions which would cripple the Iranian economy, as would Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

So it appears that GOP leaders are not as eager as Netanyahu to take the relationship further. Could the Republican’s recent statement on Iran be their way of saying “it’s not you, it’s me”? Or maybe, like Groucho Marx, they all feel that marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution? Netanyahu may have to rethink his policy regarding Iran. Scare tactics and wishful thinking might not do the trick. Luckily for him, the events taking place in the Middle East offer many other possibilities. A pragmatic Arab League still awaits an answer on the Saudi peace plan and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is just as lonely as Netanyahu is.

Perhaps a local suitor could be found.


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