If President Barack Obama thought he had managed to restrain Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from ordering preemptive military strikes on Iran to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon, he might have to try again.
Judging from the prime minister’s speech to the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC in Washington, an Israeli attack is coming sooner rather than later. Noting that diplomacy had failed to halt Iran’s uranium enrichment programme, and that international sanctions had not worked, Netanyahu said: ”None of us can afford to wait much longer. As prime minister of Israel, I will never let my people live in the shadow of annihilation.”
Netanyahu repeated what has become a theme of his visit to Washington, stressing that Israel had to be “master of its own fate”. He thanked President Obama for recognising that Israel reserved the right to defend itself, “by itself”. The president did so in his own speech to AIPAC on Sunday – effectively giving Israel a green light to act unilaterally (even though it remains unclear whether Israel has the capability alone to knock out the Iranian nuclear facilities). But at the same time, Obama appealed for more time for the sanctions to work.
Clearly, he doesn’t want Netanyahu to drag his administration into a war before the November elections, as some commentators in Israel have suggested might happen.
Maybe Netanyahu’s remarks are part of a choreographed approach by Obama and Netanyahu, who held two hours of talks at the White House today, to convince Iran that they are deadly serious about the use of force to prevent the Iranians from developing a nuclear weapon.
But I doubt it. Rather, it looks as though the prime minister has decided to go it alone as a result of their conversation. His show of unity with Obama didn’t last long.
Netanyahu’s visits to Washington during the AIPAC conference usually involve some verbal duelling with Obama. This year is no exception. On Tuesday, Netanyahu goes to Congress while Obama holds his first press conference of the year. Iran will be back on the agenda.Tagged in: iran, israel, Netanyahu, obama
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