High Stakes Poker

September 11, 2012 6:40 p.m.

We have a high-octane tussle tonight between the White House and the Netanyahu government in Israel. It started with a Netanyahu speech suggesting that the US had lost its “moral right” to block an Israeli attack on Iran by failing to put red lines beyond which Iran couldn’t go.

That was followed by a leak from Netanyahu’s team claiming that Netanyahu had requested a meeting with Obama when he travels to the UN — only to be refused. The White House scrambled tonight putting out a flat denial of that claim. In essence, the White House called the Israelis liars.As I mentioned a moment ago in an impromptu editorial meeting, this has obvious political implications for the US election. But I don’t think the intensity of the engagement is mainly about politics. It’s about policy.

Netanyahu desperately wants an attack on Iran. The White House desperately wants to avoid war. The stakes are quite, quite high.

Netanyahu knows that his leverage over the White House grows each day the US gets closer to election day. The day after election day it drops precipitously. That’s a volatile and dangerous set of circumstances. Netanyahu seems to be threatening to start meddling in the US elections if Obama doesn’t come to his position. Or rather, he is meddling and threatening more. Or, more worrisomely, he’s fixing to launch an attack now while he figures the election will constrain Obama’s options as much as possible.

The politics and policy are impossible to pull apart because they’re woven together in the same clothe. It’s high stakes poker with the fate of millions on the line.

More shortly.

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