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Ahh, the wide world of diplomatic nuance!

During the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Prince Metternich’s aide told him the Russian ambassador had died during the night. After a few thoughtful moments, Metternich said, “I wonder what he meant by that?” From Metternich, now, to Leon Panetta!

Panetta told David Ignatius of the Washington Post that he thinks Israel will attack Iran before this June. The more you know about diplomacy, the more precious diplomatic crystal you can see smashed between here and the horizon. America’s top defense official tells the world that an embattled ally is likely to attack a common enemy within months. I wonder what he meant by that!

This could be a clever pro-Israel maneuver in which Panetta signals to Iran, “Those Israelis are hotheads. And we can’t do anything about it. They’re madmen, and we fear they’re going to attack Iran.” That, according to those who cling to this interpretation, might let Iran know Israeli resolve is real, in hopes of goading them into forgetting their atomic ambitions.

What kind of person believes that? Picture the most popular boy in the high school walking down the corridor with the boy who’s the least popular and who also stutters. The most popular girl comes along and starts talking with the most popular boy. After a few minutes they continue on their way, whereupon the least popular boy says to the most popular boy, “You kn- kn- kn- know. I – I –I th- th- th- think she’s tr- tr- trying to g- g- get to m- m- m- me thr- thr- thr- through you!”

The vastly more likely possibility is that America seeks to signal Israel, “Your element of surprise in your intended attack on Iran is now blown. Your plans are now exposed and doomed. Fuhgeddaboudit!”

For the first time in my life I’ve heard an American say, “I don’t think we’re going to be alive a year from now!” That American was recoiling from all the talk about Iran building nuclear bombs; a missile that could carry them to America; the apparent victory of Islamic militants from Tunisia through Egypt to the Arabian peninsula; China’s mushrooming military might; and Russia acting evermore like the old Soviet Union – all of this to Obama’s pusillanimous refrain of “Let’s talk!”

Obama’s foreign policy would be sufficiently misguided even if Iran and Israel were normal enemies. They are not. “Unclench your fist and we will shake your hand!” is not without its poetic value. But it’s numbingly naïve and would fail even if Iran were “normal.” It suggests that Barack Obama literally does not understand the abnormality in the Iran-Israel deadlock.

Obama apparently hopes that warnings, sanctions and Obama’s favorite secret weapon – talk – will deter Iran from completing a nuclear bomb. Wake him from a deep sleep and the president would likely say, “I just don’t think Iran is likely to use a nuclear bomb on Israel.”

Wrong!

If Norway got the nuclear bomb, it’s unlikely they would use it against Denmark. If Guatemala got the bomb, it’s unlikely they would use it against Honduras. If Estonia got the bomb, it’s unlikely they would use it against Latvia. Israel, however, is certain that today’s Iran would use the bomb against Israel. Israel understands Iran’s abnormality. Iran’s present leadership believes that the right kind of trouble on earth will hasten the return of the “Twelfth Imam”; for simplicity, just think “Messiah”! And Israel confesses to a belief in equally ancient scripture. Especially after 6 million Jews were murdered by Hitler, who previewed his blueprints quite publicly, Israel is not about to make the same mistake in the same lifetime. Jewish holy writ declares, “When someone intends to kill you, rise up and kill him first.”

Israel figures, “If Iran gets the bomb, of course we’re going to attack. What do we have to lose?” This may be the first time in history when modern countries openly play by rule-books thousands of years old.

In Boy Scout camp we used to ask each other, “Who in this patrol, this troop, this camp would you most like to be with in time of trouble?” Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Leon Panetta would have gotten no votes in that derby.

Obama is insufficient to lead America; therefore America is similarly insufficient to lead the Free World. Some countries have coups. Thank God, we have elections.

The apparent Panetta “betrayal” may remind Israelis of the brand new bride who asked her groom, as they reached their honeymoon hotel room, if he’d mind going downstairs to the newsstand and buying her a comb. When he got back up to the room, he was staggered to find her in bed with the bellboy.

She looked up at her groom, smiled and said, “I’ll bet you’re going to think I’m an awful flirt!”

Israelis dread being seen as the aggressor. An Israeli politician explained to an American newsman skeptical of Israeli policy, “We don’t hit. We only hit back. Sometimes, however, survival demands we hit back first!”

I do not wonder what he meant by that!

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