It is appropriate that President Barack Obama has now suggested that the United States would use military force, if necessary, to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon with which to carry out its threats against Israel.
But the president's unsteady approach on the Iranian nuclear issue makes it impossible for Israel to be certain that he means what he says. And so his words of reassurance are unlikely to deter Israel from taking action on its own -- possibly this spring -- to halt Iran's nuclear ambitions if Israel believes its survival is at stake.
Obama has shown poor judgment previously by offering to negotiate with Iran directly and without any conditions. And the administration has said that it would provide massive economic and other assistance if Iran will suspend its nuclear activities.
If that sounds at all familiar, it should: It is the same approach that previous administrations took toward Communist North Korea -- and it didn't work. North Korea gladly took the aid but then continued its nuclear program and today is believed to have nuclear weapons. Why we would follow that failure with similar gestures toward Iran's even more irrational leaders is a mystery.
Even while saying in a recent speech that the United States could act against Iran militarily, Obama scolded Israel for its supposedly "loose talk of war" and its "bluster" against Iran. But Israel must deal with Iran's threats more directly than any other country, and it does not have the luxury of being able to hope Iran will cease and desist willingly.
It would be wonderful if no military force against Iran were necessary. But hoping can't make it so.