President Obama Threatened to Shoot Down Israeli Planes – Unproven!
Summary of eRumor:
President Obama threatened to shoot down Israeli planes if they were deployed to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2014.
Reports that President Obama threatened to shoot down Israeli planes if they were launched to attack Iran are unproven.
The claim went viral days before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared on Capitol Hill to urge U.S. lawmakers to oppose a nuclear deal with Iran that the Obama administration had been brokering.
The rumor quickly went viral after the Israel-based Ma’an News Agency cited a report by Al-Jarida, a newspaper based in Kuwait, that President Obama had threatened to shoot down Israeli planes:
“Al-Jarida newspaper quoted “well-placed” sources as saying that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had taken a decision to carry out airstrikes against Iran’s nuclear program after consultations with his minister of defense Moshe Yaalon and foreign minister Avigdor Liberman in the presence of top security commanders.
“The decision came, according to al-Jarida, after Israel revealed that the United States and Iran had been involved in secret talks over Iran’s nuclear program and were about to sign an agreement in that regard behind Israel’s back.
“According to the report, Netanyahu and his commanders agreed after four nights of deliberations to task the Israeli army’s chief of staff Beni Gants to prepare a qualitative operation against Iran’s nuclear program. In addition, Netanyahu and his ministers decided to do whatever they could do to thwart a possible agreement between Iran and the White House because such an agreement is, allegedly, a threat to Israel’s security.”
According to the Al-Jarida report, an Israeli official tipped of Secretary of State John Kerry, and President Obama threatened to shoot down the Israeli planes. Al-Jarida did not name the source for the inside information.
The White House issued a statement that said, “That report is totally false.”
An Israeli official may have tipped off Kerry about a specific plan, but the potential for Israel to launch a preemptive attack against Iran wasn’t a secret at the time. Israeli officials have publicly threatened to strike Iran for years, the Jerusalem Post reports:
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened the use of force against Iran several times since 2009, even seeking authorization from his cabinet in 2011. Iran’s program has since grown in size and scope.
“According to his aides, the prime minister’s preference is not war, but the continuation of a tight sanctions regime on Iran’s economy coupled with a credible threat of military force. Netanyahu believes more time under duress would have led to an acceptable deal. But that opportunity, in his mind, may now be lost.”
Another report by the Atlantic in October of 2014 said the U.S. once feared Israel’s threats to attack Iran, but that the threats were no longer taken seriously:
“…The fear inside the White House of a preemptive attack (or preventative attack, to put it more accurately) was real and palpable — as was the fear of dissenters inside Netanyahu’s Cabinet, and at Israel Defense Forces headquarters. At U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa, analysts kept careful track of weather patterns and of the waxing and waning moon over Iran, trying to predict the exact night of the coming Israeli attack.
“Today, there are few such fears. “The feeling now is that Bibi’s bluffing,” this second official said. “He’s not Begin at Osirak,” the official added, referring to the successful 1981 Israeli Air Force raid ordered by the ex-prime minister on Iraq’s nuclear reactor.
“The belief that Netanyahu’s threat to strike is now an empty one has given U.S. officials room to breathe in their ongoing negotiations with Iran.”
In the end, there’s no way to tell whether the original Al-Jarid report is credible because the newspaper does not name a source. That unnamed source is the basis for the entire eRumor.