General Martin Dempsey, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated the obvious in Afghanistan this weekend: that the U.S. and Israel see the Iranian nuclear threat differently–not because they are operating on different facts or intelligence about Iran, but because Israel sees Iran as an existential threat and the U.S. does not.
“Israel sees the Iranian threat more seriously than the US sees it, because a nuclear Iran poses a threat to Israel’s very existence,” Dempsey said.
“You can take two countries, give them the same intelligence and reach two different conclusions. I think that’s what’s happening here.”
He also acknowledged that he and his Israeli counterpart, IDF Chief of Staff Lt-.Gen. Benny Gantz, regularly confer on Iran. “We speak at least once every two weeks, we compare intelligence reports, we discuss the security implications of the events in the region.”
Dempsey added: “At the same time, we admit that our clocks ticking at different paces. We have to understand the Israelis; they live with a constant suspicion with which we do not have to deal.”
To be fair to the Obama administration, this gap is not necessarily new. In 2007, Israel destroyed a Syrian nuclear facility after trying to receive a green light from the Bush administration–and being refused. The difference, however, is that disagreements over Syria occurred behind the scenes, whereas President Barack Obama has often expressed open and public disagreement with Israel on Iran and other issues.
On the eve of a potential Iranian breakthrough–or a pre-emptive Israeli strike–the obvious differences that persist between the Obama administration and the Israeli government are a liability for, and a threat to, both.