At meeting with Obama, Netanyahu seeking reaffirmation of Israel's right to defend itself

ByMICHAEL WILNER IN WASHINGTON
September 29, 2013 23:22

Prime minister expected to urge US president not to relieve sanctions imposed on Tehran until it halts nuclear program; National Security Adviser Rice: Israel has "every reason to be skeptical" over Iran's diplomatic overtures.

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PM Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara get off the plane in NY, September 29, 2013.

Bibi and Sara Binyamin Netanyahu370. (photo credit:GPO / Kobi Gideon)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will go into his meeting with US President Barack Obama on Monday aiming not only to reveal the “true face” of the Iranian regime, but also wanting to hear a reaffirmation from Obama of Israel’s right to defend itself.

One of Israel’s main concerns presently is that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s “charm offensive” has chipped away at Israel’s legitimacy for military action if Tehran crosses the red line Netanyahu established at the UN General Assembly last year.

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Netanyahu is expected to urge Obama not to relieve the sanctions regime on Tehran until it stops uranium enrichment, removes it from the country, closes down the plant at Qom and abandons a plutonium channel to a nuclear bomb.

Netanyahu arrived in New York early on Sunday morning, and besides meeting with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird and Turkmenistan’s Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov, spent the day in his hotel working with top aides in preparation for the Obama meeting, and for his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.

Among those prepping the prime minister were outgoing National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror and his replacement, Yossi Cohen, as well as outgoing Ambassador to Washington Michael Oren and his replacement, Ron Dermer.

Netanyahu will be armed in his efforts to show Iran’s malevolent face by Sunday’s publication of the arrest earlier in the month of an alleged Iranian agent who, among other targets, was casing the US Embassy in Tel Aviv.

An official traveling with Netanyahu said the incident showed there was little compatibility between Iran’s words and its actions, and that the Islamic Republic continued to promote terrorism around the globe.

“While the Iranian president sweet-talks the West, the ayatollahs’ Revolutionary Guards continue in their attempts to hurt Western interests in the Middle East, as is evidenced by the fact that the Iranian spy that was caught gathered intelligence on the US Embassy in Israel,” he said.

Just before leaving after midnight on Saturday, Netanyahu said he was going to “represent the citizens of Israel, our national interests, our rights as a people, our determination to defend ourselves and our hope for peace.”

Netanyahu, referring to Rouhani’s blitz last week in the US, said, “I will tell the truth in the face of the sweet-talk and the onslaught of smiles. One must talk facts and one must tell the truth.

Telling the truth today is vital for the security and peace of the world and, of course, it is vital for the security of the State of Israel.”

Following the meeting with Obama, where the Palestinian diplomatic track is expected to feature prominently, the two leaders are to give statements to the press.

Netanyahu is then scheduled to meet with Vice President Joe Biden in the White House, followed by a meeting at the State Department with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

The prime minister is scheduled on Monday to meet with congressional leaders and to attend a congressional reception for Oren, before flying back to New York.

On Tuesday, he is to address the UN at 12:30 local time, and later in the afternoon to meet Secretary General Ban Kimoon.

The rest of the day, and much of Wednesday, before a meeting with US Jewish leaders, he is to give interviews.

Originally he was scheduled to fly back to Israel on Wednesday evening, but now the Prime Minister’s Office is considering adding on a day for more media opportunities.

In Washington, meanwhile, US National Security Adviser Susan Rice told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that Israel and its international partners “have every reason to be skeptical” over Iran’s diplomatic overtures.

“We need to test it, and any agreement must be fully verifiable and enforceable,” Rice said, adding that relations between the two nations were far from normalized.

“It’s way too soon to presume either the prospect of an agreement on the nuclear program, which we hope to be able to achieve, but we’re quite sober about the potential for that,” she said.

Rice’s comments echo similarly worded statements from senior administration officials, who say they have been in close contact with their Israeli counterparts over developments on the diplomatic front with Rouhani’s administration. Rice informed her counterparts in Israel of the Obama-Rouhani phone call on Friday shortly before it took place.

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