Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Chapter 1. Netanyahu's 3AM Call

The Marine did not look sheepish at all, though he was staring at the President of the United States and the First Lady, in their nightwear, in bed. It was his job to awaken the leader of the free world whenever a determination had been made that the president's brief sleep must be disturbed - and Captain Brian Daglish had performed that particular task twice already, though the new president had been inaugurated not even one year ago.

"Mr. President, Prime Minister Netanyahu is on the green 12 secure line, sir."

"Thank you, Brian." Obama's mental processes had an incredible zero-to-sixty. When he was instantly awakened, he was fully awake. Only occasionally did staff see fatigue take a toll on his words or judgments - and that was end-of-day, lack of sleep, burden of pressure stuff.

"Hit the light so Michele isn't bothered, I'm...I'm right behind you," said the president as he lifted his navy blue micro-fiber robe from the back of an overstuffed Queen Anne chair. The light quietly retreated into darkness as the door closed and the men walked between two Secret Service agents at their posts in the second floor residence hallway, turned toward the elevator and the short ride to the first floor West Wing office.

"Tell Annie I'll take it at the desk, Brian," ordered the Commander-In-Chief and he strode past the diminutive blonde civil servant sitting at the 24-line executive switchboard on third shift and hastened to his leather chair.

Already on the desk in front of him was the Daily Intelligence Briefing. Oddly, there was a document marked "JCS Supplemental DIB. POTUS. EYES ONLY. 14 Oct. 2009." He reached to open it as he waited for the signal indicating the call had been transferred. He had never received a Supplemental DIB before, much less from the Joint Chiefs. His right hand opened the cover as his left hand responded to the beep and flash of a single green light on the desk phone. As he lifted the phone to his ear he read the title of the document and a chill coursed down his spine like a shot glass of ice water had been poured down his back, "Israeli Land/Air Strike Against Iran Nuclear Facilities Imminent."

"Good Morning, Mr. Prime Minister. How are you Benjamin?" The greeting was warm, but Netanyahu's reply was cold, somber and perhaps rehearsed

"Good Morning, Mr. President. Let me answer your question this way. Thirty minutes ago the State of Israel commenced Operation Sword of David, Charev David. We will be flying over land presently occupied by your forces in fifteen minutes and our planes will appear on your radar in five minutes. Our military liasons have opened channels with their counterparts at the Pentagon as of the moment you answered my call..."

"Benjamin..." Obama interrupted.

"Excuse me, Mr. President, there's a bit more, allow me."


"Mr. President," continued Netanyahu, "we struggled with how to conduct this operation and decided that we would not poison the area around the sites we are striking. It was an option we considered in order to make them unusable, since we did not believe we could drive our armaments deep enough to penetrate their structures. We will damage them significantly with conventional weapons."

My God, thought Obama. The crazy Israelis were going to nuke the Iranians. They're mad! This action is going to precipitate world war. Every Arab nation will be gunning for Israel and if we help, they'll be gunning for us, too.

Netanyahu continued methodically relaying his talking points, "It is late Thursday here. The strike will occur on their holy day, it will severely damage three holy cities and probably kill thousands of innocent civilians. That is because the Iranians have located these facilities precisely where these undesirable consequences would occur."

The president had heard enough. It was time to get tough. "Benjamin. You do not have my permission to fly over Iraq or any other territory in our control. Do you hear me?"

After a heartbeat, Netanyahu spoke, "Mr. President, for months I have been trying to get the International community to do something, anything, to slow down or stop that madman from pursuing nuclear weapons. I didn't expect most countries, or frankly any countries, to help. Except the United States. I expected the United States to help. I expected the United States to show the support, the backbone, the leadership that it has historically demonstrated in the face of people like Achmadinijad. I expected the United States to be a friend of Israel."

There was a knock at the door, it opened and Obama could see a terrified blonde secretary dutifully standing in the way of two towering General Officers who were anxiously looking for an audience. He motioned them away, to their surprise, and the door to the great office closed shut.

"Benjamin. You do not..."

"Mr. President, I did not call to get your permission. I did not think you would give me your permission. I have not seen or heard from you any of the precious hope you are peddling to the American people that I might cling to. I have not seen any concern for the State of Israel that I might put away somewhere, to withdraw in a time of danger and hold in my hand and say, Mr. Obama is on our side. Because, Mr. Obama, I do not know whose side you are on. Neither does my enemy, which may be fortunate or unfortunate. I only know that it is your inaction that has brought us to this moment."

"Mine? Bullshit! That's bullshit." Another knock at the door. Unanswered. Obama could see that nearly all of the lines on the phones were now blinking. Including a certain red one.

"Yours!" shouted Netanyahu, his voice as clear as if the call were on an extension from an adjacent office. "Yours because you asked for time. I only asked for help. You asked for patience. I only asked to save my people. When you said you wanted talks, they launched missiles. When you said you wanted the Security Council to get involved, they built twelve covert processing facilities. It was you! You gave them the time they needed to bring us to this. Everything you asked for helped our enemy. Nothing you asked for was ever designed to help Israel. Nothing!"

Obama didn't hesitate. This was his time. This was the moment of decision for him and he was going to prevent a war with whatever it might take. If it meant standing up to this little shit country militarily, so be it. Obama growled into the phone, "Now you listen to me. We will divert your planes and we will shoot them down if we have to. Do you hear me?"

The Israeli Prime Minister's next words were soft and clear and subdued so as to be unmistakable, "No you won't. The reason you won't is because I am in possession of a document. The document has your name on it. If I release the document, you will not be president by this time tomorrow. That is all I will elaborate - except to say, the American people do not know you as well as we do. We know how to do this so even your friends in the media will despise you. We have documents on them, too."

"I think you are bluffing or you'd tell me what it is. You're making this up. Not only that, I'm bound to do what I have to do without regard for my personal reputation. I cannot be blackmailed by you or anyone. I'm the President of the United States, Benjamin! You are not going to talk to me like this!"

"I have other calls to make, Mr. President. I'm sorry that it is going down this way. If you had finally, this time, tried at last to help me, I never would even have mentioned the document. But I didn't call to listen, I called to talk. Let me assure you, if there is any harassment of our aircraft I will ruin you. Utterly." And then there was a great silence on the phone, yet despite that, Obama held the handset to his ear as though he could will the conversation - or whatever it was - to continue.