US President Barack Obama (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
With less than two weeks left before the June 30 deadline for an agreement between world powers and Iran to scale back Tehran's nuclear program, Israel has not yet thrown in the towel. A delegation of senior Israeli officials led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen left this week for Washington in what can be described as a "final battle."
In a series of meetings that the Israeli delegation is scheduled to hold with senior American officials involved in the Iran talks, they will attempt to influence the content of a number of clauses of the agreement at the last minute, change the wording of the deal and even attempt to delay the signing of the agreement. "The deadline is not sacred," a senior Western diplomat in New York told The Jerusalem Post's sister publication Ma'ariv. "However, the chance that Israel can significantly alter clauses that have come together in recent weeks is extremely scant. You know what? Not scant. Write that there is no chance," he added.
The insistence displayed by Israel in its efforts to influence the deal with Iran entirely ignores the crisis of trust between Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama. Thus, Jerusalem shows that, unlike on the Iranian issue, when it comes to relations between Obama and Netanyahu, Israel has already thrown in the towel and given up on attempts to rehabilitate ties and to rebuild trust between the two leaders. As of now, their appears to be no Israeli effort to heal the rift between the White House and the prime minister. It appears that Netanyahu has decided that it is a waste of time to put energy into rebuilding ties with the US president, who finishes his tenure at the White House in a year-and-a-half.
If this indeed is Netanyahu's thought process, he is mistaken. Apathy displayed toward the White House's senior resident will not be fondly remembered, even if a Republican president takes up residence in the Oval Office two years from now.
While relations between Obama and Netanyahu have been abandoned, Israel's fears of what it sees as a "bad deal" emerging with Iran have sparked more communication between the senior staff at the White House and the senior staff at Israel's National Security Council. These fears have also strengthened the work relations and cooperation between Obama's National Security Adviser, Susan Rice, and Netanyahu's National Security Adviser, Yossi Cohen. This channel of communication between the two countries is open and positive, in direct contrast to the suspicion and mutual grudge-holding between Obama and Netanyahu.
The close working relationship between Rice and Cohen has become a known phenomenon among journalists and analysts in Washington. Cohen does not force himself on the White House staff. On the contrary, he is an invited and desired guest. On his current visit to Washington, Rice invited him to dinner for a face-to-face conversation, which constitutes an extraordinary show of friendship from the side of Obama's national security adviser.
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