That there are differences between Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu over the urgency of considering military action against Iran has been evident for some time. The White House has been saying that, despite Tehran’s progress in enriching uranium and refusal to bargain seriously with an international coalition, there remains “time and space for diplomacy,” a position we’re inclined to agree with. Israel, suggesting that Iran is approaching a “zone of immunity” in which its program would be nearly invulnerable to attack, has been signaling that it could act unilaterally in the coming months.
Certainly there would be dangers to a more explicit presidential statement, including that the United States would start down a slippery slope toward war. But if Mr. Obama really is determined to take military action if Iran takes decisive steps toward producing a bomb, such as enriching uranium to bomb-grade levels or expelling inspectors, he would be wise to say so publicly. Doing so would improve relations with Mr. Netanyahu and deter unilateral Israeli action — and it might well convince Iran that the time has come to compromise.