Has Obama Assuaged Israel's Fear About Iranian Nukes? (UPDATED)

A Goldblog reader writes:

You point out correctly that the Times story doesn't quote any Israelis saying they are assuaged by the Obama Administration's actions. The Times reporters take the Obama Administration's word that the Israelis are happy with them, which seems to me like they had a public relations job done on them. Nevertheless, you said on NPR today that the Israelis are more relaxed then they were a few months ago about the threat of Iran's nuclear intentions. Do you think something has changed in recent days?

Yes, something has changed. The top leaders of Israel are increasingly convinced that Obama means what he says when he says he is "determined" to stop Iran's nuclear program. I do think Bibi trusts Obama more now then he did a year ago (I can't say whether Obama trusts Bibi), particularly on this all-important question. But the simple observation remains: If Obama fails to stop Iran's nuclear program through non-military means, and then refuses to use military force to keep Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold, the likelihood is still very high that Israel would try to destroy the Iranian nuclear program itself.

UPDATE: A Goldblog source writes in from a certain Middle Eastern country: "You are wrong to say that Israeli leaders are more 'relaxed' about this issue. They think Iran is a year away from breakout capacity. That has not changed at all. The Obama Administration is saying to Israel through the means of a planted story in the Times that they understand our concerns and that they're working on the problem. But nobody here believes that Obama will succeed through sanctions to stop the Iranian nuclear program. One thing has changed -- the Iranians have centrifuge problems, but these problems will most likely be fixed by the beginning of next year. So the timetable still holds: Israel will have to decide, as you reported, by the beginning of next year what to do. In the meantime, pray for Obama's success."

I think that last bit, in particular, is important. President Obama has a deliberate plan in place to dissuade Iran from going down the nuclear path. Let us hope and pray that it works.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.


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