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But there is also the risk of a disconnect.
Many Israelis will be looking to Obama for firmer reassurance of his resolve to do what is deemed necessary, including the use of military force, to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb. Iran denies such ambitions.
The U.S. president does not appear likely, however, to go much further, despite Netanyahu’s repeated calls for a stricter U.S. “red line.”
Obama, who has insisted he is not bluffing about military action against Iran if all else fails, told American Jewish leaders privately last week he saw little value in extra “chest-beating” just to sound tough, participants said.
The White House believes Israelis have yet to reach a consensus on how to confront Iran, essentially putting on hold, at least for now, Netanyahu’s threats of an attack on Tehran’s nuclear sites, according to a source familiar with the administration’s thinking.
Obama will stress with Netanyahu the need for patience with sanctions and diplomacy, the source said. But U.S. officials also hope a high-profile recommitment to Israel’s security can increase public pressure on Netanyahu to avoid aggravating the situation while world powers negotiate with Tehran.
Iran has become the main source of friction in the relationship between Obama and Netanyahu, which Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East negotiator, called the “most dysfunctional” he has ever seen between an American president and Israeli prime minister.
He believes a thaw is still possible, especially if Obama hits the right notes in Israel. “He needs to say to them, ‘I understand this is a tough neighborhood and you have a dark history. I’m not trivializing your fears.’ This hasn’t been adequately communicated by this administration,” Miller said.
Obama’s decision to skip Israel in 2009 when he went to Cairo, where he offered a “new beginning” with the Muslim world, remains a sore point with many Israelis and they wonder what took him so long to visit. Obama’s Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, also waited until his second term to go there.