Report: “Hands off Iran” is the purpose of Obama’s Israel visit

Unnamed sources tell Israel’s Army Radio that the main purpose of President Obama’s upcoming visit to Israel is to warn Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu against attacking Iran. Netanyahu has flagged the spring of 2013 as a significant time in the context of the Iranian nuclear threat. And having recently been re-elected, he can now form a more hawkish security cabinet [note: at least according to the Jerusalem Post].

According to the report, Obama’s message to Netanyahu will be: “Don’t attack Iran, let me handle matters with the Iranians according to my understanding, and if necessary I will take action; we have capabilities that you do not.”

I don’t put too much stock in this report. No doubt Obama and Netanyahu will discuss Iran, and no doubt Obama will argue against an Israeli strike. But whether Obama’s visit is primarily motivated by fear that Netanyahu is poised to strike Iran, as opposed to a desire to intercede on behalf of the Palestinians, remains unclear.

But this much seems clear: Netanyahu would be a fool to step aside and let Obama “handle matters with the Iranians according to [Obama’s] understanding.” And this too: if Obama wanted to instill that kind of trust in Netanyahu, he should have nominated someone other than Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense.