Netanyahu, Obama talk tough on Iran

2012-03-06 07:40
Washington - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told US President Barack Obama on Monday that Israel must remain the "master of its fate", in a firm defence of his right to mount a unilateral strike on Iran.

Obama assured Netanyahu he had Israel's "back" but also stressed before Oval Office talks that he saw a "window" for diplomacy, despite rampant speculation Israel could soon mount high risk go-it-alone military action.

The leaders, who have had a famously testy relationship, met for two hours of talks amid clear signs of differences on the imminence of the perceived Iranian nuclear threat, if not its ultimate danger to both nations.

Obama is also facing a curtain of Republican fire on Iran as he cranks up his re-election campaign from opponents who accuse him of appeasement and of deserting America's closest Middle Eastern ally.

Defence


In an impassioned on-camera statement, Netanyahu told Obama: "Israel must have the ability always to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.

"That's why my supreme responsibility as prime minister of Israel is to ensure that Israel remains the master of its fate," said Netanyahu.

The Obama administration has signalled that it does not yet believe Iran has taken a choice to develop a nuclear weapon, or that the time is right for military action, preferring to give biting new sanctions time to work.

Israel, which sees an Iranian nuclear weapon as a threat to its existence, however believes that Iran may be on the cusp of "break out" capacity - the moment when it could quickly produce weapons-grade uranium.

A senior US official said that Washington now believed after the meeting that Netanyahu understood that Obama was deeply serious about preventing Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

An Israeli official commented that Israeli concerns were now also widely understood, but did not elaborate.

In the days before Netanyahu arrived, Obama bolstered his rhetoric on Iran - making clear he did not "bluff" and would order military if necessary, but refused to set public "red lines" for action.

The US official said the administration believed it would have up to a year to decide on how to respond should Iran decide to begin enriching uranium to weapons-grade quality. Israel does not share that timetable.

Prevention


In a nod to the tragic history of the Jewish people, Obama recognised that it was "unacceptable" for Israel to tolerate Iran developing a nuclear weapon after calling for its destruction.

And despite slamming "loose talk" about war on Sunday in a speech to the top pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, Obama said his intent was prevention, and not living with an Iranian bomb.

"I reserve all options and my policy here is not going to be one of containment.

"My policy is prevention of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons ... when I say all options are on the table, I mean it," Obama said.

But the president, seeking to preserve a way out for Iran short of war, said he believed a diplomatic solution was still possible.

"We do believe there is still a window that allows for a diplomatic resolution to this issue."

Washington fears that an early, pre-emptive strike from Israel could trigger a fierce reaction from Iran, unleash regional turmoil, endanger US troops in the region and drag Washington into a new war.

It is also uncertain whether Israel possesses sufficient military capacity to end Iran's underground pursuit of the nuclear arsenal it denies seeking, and could at best set back the programme just a few years.

Israel meanwhile is worried that despite their potency, increasingly tough US and European sanctions on Iran and its central bank and vital petroleum industry will not convince Tehran to renounce a nuclear arsenal.

Oil price


The Islamic Republic denies it is seeking nuclear weapons.

Washington also warns that tensions over Iran benefit the Islamic Republic by hiking the price of oil, and rock energy markets in a way that could crimp the slow yet building economic recovery.

Officials from both sides said that despite their differences in the past, the meeting between Obama and Netanyahu went ahead in a productive atmosphere.

The nuclear stand-off has pushed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into the background, although Obama did raise the stalled talks.

He pledged to work for "a calmer set of discussions between the Israelis and the Palestinians" in a bid to seek a "peaceful resolution to that long-standing conflict".

Later, Netanyahu courted Israel's backers in the US Congress. Speaking to around 13 000 delegates at a conference of the top pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC, Netanyahu asked them to pay homage to the solidly supportive US legislature.

"I want to ask the 13 000 supporters of the state of Israel to stand up and applaud the representatives of the United States," he said, prompting a standing ovation.

"Democrats and Republicans alike, I salute your unwavering support for the Jewish people," he added.

Netanyahu will meet Congressional leaders on Tuesday, winding up a two-day visit to the United States.


Read more on:    benjamin netanyahu  |  barack obama  |  israel  |  us  |  iran  |  us elections 2012  |  middle east peace  |  iran nuclear programme
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
57 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Travel

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Pre-order your iPhone 6 at kalahari.com

Hurry and pre-order your own iPhone 6 now at SA’s favourite online store!

Bargain box – 60% off

Reduced prices, very limited stock. While stocks last. Hurry and shop now!

Mind blow low prices on electronics

Get either the Prestigio multiphone or Proline tablet 7” tablet for only R699. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off Barbie toys

Save 30% on all Barbie toys and accessories. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Baby extravanganza month at kalahari.com

Celebrate baby month with a wide range of awesome baby products. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Be open, network and share your intentions and ideas as these may be the vital seeds to the imminent change that can be starting...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.