Last Updated: Wed Feb 29, 2012 13:34 pm (KSA) 10:34 am (GMT)

Netanyahu to ask Obama for more than ‘options on the table’ over Iran

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) is expected to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on March 5. (File photo)
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) is expected to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on March 5. (File photo)

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to harden his line against Iran during a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on March 5, an Israeli daily reported on Wednesday.
Israel wants Obama to make more declarations than the vague assertion that “all options are on the table,” Haaretz quoted a senior Israeli official as saying.

The Israeli prime minister wants Obama to state clearly that the Washington was preparing for a military operation in case that Tehran crosses the “red lines,” the official said.

According to the report carried out by Haaretz, both U.S. and Israeli officials acknowledge a serious lack of trust between both countries with regard to the issue of a possible strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
A senior U.S. official involved in the preparation for Netanyahu’s visit to the United States, who asked not to be named, said that intensive preparations were underway to guarantee the success of the meeting between Netanyahu and Obama and to bridge this lack of trust.

On Tuesday, Israeli officials said they won’t warn the U.S. if they decide to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, according to one U.S. intelligence official familiar with the discussions, according to The Associated Press.

Israeli officials said that if they eventually decide a strike is necessary, they would keep the Americans in the dark to decrease the likelihood that the U.S. would be held responsible for failing to stop Israel’s potential attack. The U.S. has been working with the Israelis for months to persuade them that an attack would be only a temporary setback to Iran's nuclear program.

According to sources, the lack of trust between Israeli and U.S. officials appears to stem from a mutual feeling that each one of them is interfering in the other’s internal political affairs.

Netanyahu suspects that the U.S. administration is attempting to turn Israeli public opinion against an attack on Iran, the sources were quoted as saying by Haaretz.

On the other hand, Obama suspects Netanyahu is using Congress and the Republican candidates in the presidential race to put pressure on his administration to support such a strike.

Netanyahu and his Defense Minister Ehud Barak delivered the message to a series of top-level U.S. visitors to the country, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the White House national security adviser and the director of national intelligence, and top U.S. lawmakers, all trying to close the trust gap between Israel and the U.S. over how to deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions, according AP.

Netanyahu delivered the same message to all the Americans who have traveled to Israel for talks, the U.S. official said.

The Israeli premier met a group of five senior senators over lunch, headed by Sen. John McCain, who ran four years ago against Obama for president. Netanyahu reportedly told the senators he was not interfering in U.S. politics and expected U.S. officials not to interfere in Israeli politics either.

The White House was furious after McCain spoke out after the meeting with Netanyahu, said one source. “There should be no daylight between America and Israel in our assessment of the Iranian threat. Unfortunately there clearly is some,” McCain said.

The Obama administration viewed this as Israeli intervention in U.S. internal political affairs, with Netanyahu briefing McCain and McCain repeating his statements, according to the report by Haaretz.

Obama is scheduled to address the annual conference of the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC on March 4, one day before his meeting with Netanyahu.

Netanyahu was also to deliver a speech at the meeting of the AIPAC lobby on the evening of March 5, after meeting Obama.
U.S. politicians often flock to AIPAC to gain backing and air their pro-Israel positions -- with the November election approaching, this year’s event is set to be even more hotly political than usual.

Haaretz reported earlier in the week that Israeli President Shimon Peres will inform Obama, during the AIPAC conference, of his objection to an Israeli attack on Iran. Peres later denied the reports.

In his address to the group last year, Obama pledged to stand by the Jewish state through thick and thin, stressing Washington’s “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security.

(Additional writing by Abeer Tayel)

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