Netanyahu Kotel 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
In what has become somewhat of a tradition for incoming prime ministers on their first day in office, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited the Western Wall and spoke with the US president on Wednesday - not necessarily in that order.
Barack Obama, currently on his first overseas trip as president, phoned Netanyahu in the early morning hours Wednesday, and congratulated him on his first day in office. Obama, according to Olmert's office, made clear that US support for Israel's security was unwavering, and wished him well.
According to Netanyahu's office, the conversation lasted close to 30 minutes, and was held in a "friendly" atmosphere. The two agreed to meet in the near future, though no date was given.
While there has been much speculation that Netanyahu would make his maiden trip as prime minister to Washington for the AIPAC policy conference in the beginning of May, this has not been confirmed, and he may postpone the trip for a few weeks so his team can complete a policy review.
Olmert also spoke by phone with Russia Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, for an extended conversation that was described as "warm." Putin, according to Netanyahu's office, said Netanyahu was a "welcome guest in Moscow."
An indication of what will be at the center of Olmert's agenda was apparent in an interview he gave The Atlantic on Tuesday, which was placed on the web on Wednesday and is one of a number of interviews Netanyahu is expected to give the foreign press over the next few days to present his message to the international community.
The gist of his message to The Atlantic had to do with Iran. "The Obama presidency has two great missions: fixing the economy, and preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons," Netanyahu said. "You don't want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs. When the wide-eyed believer gets hold of the reins of power and the weapons of mass death, then the entire world should start worrying, and that is what is happening in Iran."
Netanyahu said in the interview that he supported Obama's policy of engaging Iran, as long as it would bring to an end Teheran's nuclear program. "How you achieve this goal is less important than achieving it," he said. He also said that he thought the Iranians were still susceptible to economic pressure.
"I think the Iranian economy is very weak, which makes Iran susceptible to sanctions that can be ratcheted up by a variety of means," he said.