Visits to Jerusalem by senior U.S. officials this week reflect a growing concern in Washington over the possibility that Israel will decide to attack nuclear sites in Iran. The Americans are particularly worried about the hawkish line that Defense Minister Ehud Barak has adopted on the matter. They apparently have the impression, however, that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has yet to come to a final stance on the dispute.
The number of visits that have been made here by senior members of President Barack Obama’s administration in recent months is unusual. A delegation headed by U.S. National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon arrived Saturday evening; and later this week, Israel will host James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence. On separate visits this past fall, the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency, David Petraeus, paid a visit to Israel, as did U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, whose trip here came shortly after a visit to the United States by Barak.
Last month, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, came to Israel, not long after taking office. In another two weeks, Netanyahu will be in Washington to deliver an address before the policy conference of the pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The Israeli premier is also expected to meet with Obama in the course of the visit. Even prior to that, next week, Defense Minister Barak will apparently make his own trip to the U.S. capital to meet with senior administration officials.
This air bridge between Israel and the United States has one primary purpose − to make clear to Israel that the time has not yet come for military action against Iran’s nuclear program, and that any premature assault would disrupt the increasingly stringent process of international sanctions against Iran that Obama has been leading.