US President Barack Obama spoke to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for
an hour Tuesday night about Iran and other security issues, the White
“President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu
reaffirmed that they are united in their determination to prevent Iran
from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and agreed to continue their close
consultations going forward,” the White House statement read.
conversation came after roiling tensions between Jerusalem and
Washington over setting red lines for Iran’s nuclear program burst into
the open earlier in the day, and after Israeli sources said the White
House had denied a request for Obama to meet with Netanyahu when he
visits the US later this month to address the United Nation’s General
“There was never a request for Prime Minister Netanyahu
to meet with President Obama in Washington, nor was a request for a
meeting ever denied,” the statement also read.
Tuesday, Israeli officials told The Jerusalem Post and other news
organizations that a meeting had been requested by Jerusalem and turned
down. The reason for the request being denied was attributed to
Netanyahu and Obama are slated to address
the UN on different days, and therefore would not be in New York at the
same time. In addition, the White House indicated Obama will not be
holding any bilateral meetings while he is in town. But the prime
minister was looking to set up a meeting in Washington after Obama had
returned from the GA.
It would be the first time since taking office that Netanyahu would visit the United States without meeting Obama.
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said Tuesday that he
did not have a “final schedule” for the president for that week, a
response that left open the possibility that a last-minute meeting could
be added to the agenda.
Netanyahu is expected to meet with other senior US officials in New York, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
phone conversation with Netanyahu came after the latter attacked US
policy on Tehran at a joint press conference in Jerusalem Tuesday with
visiting Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Metodiev Borisov.
said that those who do not place “red lines” in front of Iran have no
moral right to put a “red light” in front of Israel when it comes to
Netanyahu’s words came in the wake of statements
by Clinton on Sunday, and State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland
on Monday, that the US had no intention of putting either red lines or
deadlines in front of the Iranians.
Clinton said that the US was
not setting deadlines, and Nuland expanded that by saying that it was
“not useful” to be “setting deadlines one way or the other, red lines.”
at the press conference with Borisov on Tuesday said that diplomacy and
sanctions, which have hurt the Iranian economy, have not stopped the
Iranian nuclear program.
“The fact is that every day that passes,
Iran gets closer and closer to nuclear bombs,” he said. “If Iran knows
that there are no red lines, if Iran knows that there are no deadlines,
what will it do? Exactly what it is doing. It is continuing without
interference toward obtaining nuclear weapons capabilities and from
there nuclear bombs.”
The world, Netanyahu said, tells Israel to wait and that there is still time.
I say wait for what? Wait until when? Those in the international
community who refuse to put deadlines in front of Iran do not have the
moral right to put a red light before Israel.”
Iran must understand that there are red lines so it stops its nuclear program, he added.
government officials have spoken anonymously in recent days and weeks
of a frustration with US policy on Iran, these were the toughest public
comments yet by the prime minister on the matter.
beginning of the month, Netanyahu has repeatedly said that red lines
needed to be established and that this was possibly one way to avoid the
need for other action.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Tuesday night that his country had the right to act independently.
reserves the right and the responsibility to make decisions, as
necessary, with respect to its security and future, and the US respects
this,” he said.
“Despite the common purpose [between the two
countries], there are certain differences between Israel and the US with
regard to certain positions. But these are best dealt with behind
He added these differences should not detract from
America’s role as Israel’s primary ally and friend in the international
“Do not forget that the US is Israel’s main ally. We have
intimate relationships in the intelligence field, and the US is
Israel’s most important supporter in the security field,” Barak said.
“The foundation of this relationship is a long-standing friendship and
shared values between Israel and the American people.
In spite of
the differences, and the importance of maintaining Israel’s right to
act independently, we have to remember the importance of our partnership
with the US. We should do everything possible not to harm it.”
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday that his country was
operating under a different timetable when it came to Iran. The US has
more than a year to stop Iran should it decide to make a nuclear weapon,
“It’s roughly about a year right now, a little more
than a year,” the Pentagon official said on CBS’s This Morning program.
He also provided assurance that the US could stop Iran.
we will have the opportunity once we know that they’ve made that
decision, [to] take the action necessary to stop [Iran],” he said,
adding that the US had “pretty good intelligence” on Iran.
“We know generally what they’re up to. And so we keep a close track on them,” he said.
Furthermore, Panetta assessed that the US had the ability to keep Iran from constructing a nuclear weapon.
have the forces in place to be able to not only defend ourselves, but
to do what we have to do to try to stop them from developing nuclear
weapons,” he said.
Opposition leader Shaul Mofaz on Tuesday said
he does not expect that Israel will take military action against Iran
this year. Instead of making a decision on Iran, the opposition leader
said, Netanyahu is busy subverting Obama.
Mofaz went on to accuse
Netanyahu of meddling in the upcoming US presidential elections, which
he described as “irresponsible behavior and an error that harms the
fabric of relations with [Israel’s] biggest ally.”
Jerusalem’s relationship with Washington need not be sacrificed to eliminate the Iranian nuclear program, he added.
recently as Sunday, during an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting
Corporation, Netanyahu said the US and Israel were discussing red lines
Netanyahu will be traveling to New York to address the
Iranian issue at the UN General Assembly. He is scheduled to arrive in
New York on Thursday morning, September 27, and fly back to Israel after
Shabbat on September 30.
Tovah Lazaroff and Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.