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Obama feels "obligation" to Israel over Iran

February 4, 2014 at 11:00 am

In an interview with the CBS “60 Minutes” programme, US President Barack Obama has described Israeli pressure over Iran as “noise” that he tries to block out. Nevertheless, Obama insisted that he feels “an obligation, not pressure but obligation, to make sure that we’re in close consultation with the Israelis on these issues because it affects them deeply.”

According to newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, US-Israeli dialogue is ongoing behind the scenes with the aim of reaching an understanding on the issue. Israeli Ambassador to Washington Michel Oren went to Israel for consultations with Prime Minister Netanyahu in preparation for the latter’s visit to the UN General Assembly in New York.

Obama said that he understands and supports Netanyahu’s insistence that Iran must not possess nuclear weapons, arguing that Iran’s nuclear programme poses a threat to both countries and could kick off a nuclear arms race. “When it comes to our national security decisions, any pressure that I feel is simply to do what’s right for the American people,” he said, “and I am going to block out any noise that’s out there.” Israel, he continued, is one of America’s “closest allies in the region” and Iran has said “horrible things” which “threaten Israel’s existence”.

Tension between the US and Israel has peaked with Netanyahu’s demand that the United States draw red lines on Iran, something that Washington has so far refused to do. Nevertheless, Obama stressed his country’s commitment to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Yedioth Ahronoth also drew attention to an article by New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman which was critical of Netanyahu’s position. “Bibi [Netanyahu] is Winston Churchill when it comes to demanding that the US draw red lines, but he is a local party boss when America asks him to draw a ‘green line’ delineating where Jewish settlements in the West Bank will stop and a Palestinian state might start. Oh, no! Can’t do that, Bibi tells American officials. ‘I would lose my coalition.'”

America, Friedman notes, “is supposed to risk a war with Iran, but Bibi won’t risk anything to advance a deal with the Palestinians that might create a little more global legitimacy and sympathy for Israel, and America, in the event of a war with Iran.”