Despite the commonly accepted view that the meetings of U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Barak, and President Shimon Peres, were generally positive, in private conversations Panetta expressed frustration at the lack of confidence expressed by Netanyahu and Barak regarding the American commitment to stopping the Iranian nuclear program, Maariv reports. An Israeli source told the paper that the Americans believe Israel is being ungrateful. The source even used the term “Chazerai”—which in colloquial Hebrew means selfishness—to describe Netanyahu’s and Barak’s attitude in light of unwavering U.S. support for Israel’s security.
Panetta’s visit to Israel was intended to enhance the image of the Obama Administration’s unquestionable supports for Israel without question. This is how political circles interpreted Panetta’s decision to create a photo-op next to an Iron Dome battery near Ashkelon, just north of the Gaza Strip.
But before Ashkelon, Panetta met on Wednesday with Prime Minister Netanyahu, who lectured him on the futility of diplomacy, sanctions and “tough” statements which to date have not caused the Iranians nuclear program to budge. The PM also reiterated that the time to resolve the issue peacefully is running out.
“Iran is the world’s largest sponsor of terrorism, and we must do everything to prevent Iran—the world’s most dangerous regime—from developing the world’s most dangerous weapons,” went Netanyahu’s lesson on the urgent need for a military option. “Today the Iranian regime believes that the international community does not have the will to stop its nuclear program. This has to change, and it must change quickly, since the time to resolve the issue through peaceful means is running out.”
Standing by the Iron Dome battery, it actually appeared as if Panetta had internalized the gist of the lecture, begrudgingly or otherwise. “The most severe sanctions imposed on Iran ever are now,” Panetta told reporters. “Iran supports the Assad regime, Hezbollah, and other terrorist elements. We have a strong commitment to Israel’s security. Pressure on Iran will continue, but the military option is on the table if diplomacy fails.”
At which point it was Defense Minister Barak’s turn to lecture his U.S. counterpart on the advantages of military force over diplomacy. Barak told the reporters—with Panetta listening—that Israel’s leadership is pessimistic about the possibility that Iran would abandon its nuclear ambitions following the sanctions. “The possibility that the ayatollahs will sit around the table and decide to give up their nuclear option is very low,” Barak explained his government’s position.
Then Barak delivered his punch line: “Israel must make decisions on this matter, and the U.S. Administration understands it.”
It turns out, according to Maariv, that while Panetta, the trained diplomat, is good at concealing his true reactions to being schooled so openly by two Israeli leaders, he was quite expressive in private about their arrogance.
For the record, however, the explosive term “Chazerai” was used by Maariv’s source to represent an equivalent English term used by Panetta, whose parents immigrated from Calabria, Italy, and probably did not speak much Yiddish at home.