Obama and Netanyahu in Tight Spot on Iran

Analysis: Both Leaders Walk on Political Tightrope

All Smiles: Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama, shown here during a meeting last spring, are both facing tricky domestic political and diplomatic situations.
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All Smiles: Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama, shown here during a meeting last spring, are both facing tricky domestic political and diplomatic situations.

By Reuters

Published September 12, 2012.
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Current and former members of the Israeli national security apparatus have publicly argued against an Israeli strike for now and a former chief of the Israel Defense Forces, Dan Halutz, rejected Netanyahu’s call for red lines.

“When you have to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk. Don’t put red lines,” Halutz told a Washington think tank.

Haim Malka, deputy director and senior fellow in the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the rift comes at a moment when Netanyahu appears to be losing public support in Israel for a unilateral strike against Iran.

Speaking before the White House issued its statement, Malka said it was not surprising that Obama might not be eager for a meeting.

“Netanyahu used strong language that questioned not just the strategic judgment of the administration but its moral judgment in approaching the Iranian nuclear issue,” he said.

“It’s hard to imagine that the administration would set up a meeting between the president and Netanyahu after such a strong verbal attack,” he added.

However, it is also conceivable the White House might judge it politic to arrange a meeting, if only to quell the impression of a rift and reduce the odds of it becoming an issue ahead of the Nov. 6 election.

Accused by Republicans of showing weak support for Israel, Democrats last week resurrected language in their party platform declaring Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel after Obama objected to its having been dropped from the document.

Negotiations between Iran and six major powers to find a diplomatic solution have gone nowhere and it is conceivable that U.S. and Israeli tensions may rise, particularly as Israel sees its window for a unilateral strike closing.

Patrick Clawson, director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank, said the United States could find itself in a more difficult position if Israel abandoned any thought of a strike on Iran.

“I think what would be worse for American-Israeli relations is if the Israelis say to the Americans: ‘OK, we’re not going to strike Iran. We’re going to assume you’re going to take care of this problem,’” he said.

“Then we get into a situation sometime next year when the Israelis think the Iranians are on the brink of having nuclear weapons and the Americans haven’t done anything. That’s going to be a really big crisis,” he said.


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