An Israeli October Surprise for Obama?
An attack on Iran before a U.S. election with the goal of dooming the incumbent president?
by Robert Parry
August 18, 2012
A pressing foreign policy question of the U.S. presidential race is whether Israel might exploit this politically delicate time to bomb Iran’s nuclear sites and force President Obama to join the attack or face defeat at the polls, a predicament with similarities to one President Carter faced in 1980.
There is doubt in some quarters that Israel’s Likud government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would time an attack on Iran in the weeks before a U.S. election with the goal of dooming the incumbent Democratic president, Barack Obama, or forcing his hand to commit American military might in support of Israel.
But there was a precedent 32 years ago when another Likud government had grown alienated from the Democratic president and found itself in a position where it could help drive him from office by covertly assisting his Republican rivals in another crisis involving Iran.
In that case – known as the “October Surprise” mystery – President Jimmy Carter was trying to gain the release of 52 Americans then held hostage in Iran. Carter also was pushing the Likud government of Prime Minister Menachem Begin to reach a peace settlement with the Palestinians that would allow them to establish their own state on the West Bank.
Begin, however, was determined to implement a Likud strategy “to change the facts on the ground” by moving Jewish settlers into the Occupied Territories, what Likud called Judea and Samaria, part of historical Israel given to the Jewish people by God. That set up a clash with Carter who was determined to achieve a comprehensive Middle East peace that would establish a Palestinian state on the West Bank.
As Begin maneuvered to block such an arrangement, Carter grew frustrated and then infuriated. In his White House Diary, Carter described how heated the confrontation became after Begin insisted on deferring any agreement pending a Knesset debate.