US President Barack Obama pledged his commitment to Israel’s security despite his rift with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Iran as he answered a question from a Tel Aviv resident during an interview on the Mic website on Monday.
“I don’t oppose the Israeli prime minister across the board,” Obama said.
The interview, which he gave to Mic Editor-in-Chief Jake Horowitz, was released just one day after he accused the prime minister on CNN of interfering in US politics on the subject of the deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear program.
In his talk with Obama, Horowitz included questions from a young Israeli, an Iranian and an American citizen.
Horowitz posed a question from Sam Grossberg, a 30-year-old Tel Aviv resident, who asked Obama, “Why should we, as the Israeli people, trust you?” The president responded by saying that while he and Netanyahu have substantive disagreements on Iran “On a whole range of issues – particularly with respect to Israel’s security – we’ve with been with Israel every step of the way. And even Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government would acknowledge that.”
Obama also called on Iran to stop threatening Israel.
“There’s going to have to be a transition inside of Iran, even if gradual, in which there’s a recognition that chanting “death to America” or denying the Holocaust among its leaders or threatening Israel with destruction or, you know, providing arms to Hezbollah, which is on the terrorist list – that those things make Iran a pariah in the eyes of a large part of the world,” Obama said.
Speaking to Army Radio and Israel Radio earlier in the day, US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro urged Netanyahu to begin talking with the United States about the day after the Iran deal becomes a reality.
“We have to accept that there is a clear disagreement between us and maybe we won’t succeed in convincing each other,” said Shapiro.
“We offered the prime minister to begin diplomatic talks on how we can increase our security cooperation to deal with the outcome of the Iranian deal,” the ambassador said. “To discuss what intelligence information we need, to come to an agreement regarding military assistance that may be needed in the next 10 years, how we can stop weapons transfers to Hezbollah, what are the military needs of Israel against falling rockets. We can have these conversations all while we disagree on the Iran deal.”
He added, however, that “until now, the prime minister hasn’t agreed to have these conversations. I believe the time has come.”
Shapiro gave his Hebrew interviews to Israeli radio as Obama embarked on a public relations campaign that involved three public interviews in an effort to convince the American public and Congress that the deal is in the best interest of the country and the Middle East.
Congress is set to vote on the agreement by September 17. Netanyahu discussed the issue with a visiting Democratic congressional delegation on Sunday and is set to talk with group of Republican politicians in Jerusalem this week.
Netanyahu opposes the deal because he believes it legitimizes Iran’s nuclear program and leaves it with the capacity to produce atomic weapons. Even with the agreement, there is nothing barring Iran from calling for Israel’s destruction, according to the prime minister.
Last week, Interior Minister Silvan Shalom published an opinion piece in Britain’s The Guardian newspaper against the deal, urging the US and five other world powers that approved it – China, Russia, France, Great Britain and Germany – not to trust Iran.
“The West must look beyond its economic interests and ask itself what values it has in common with the ayatollahs in Tehran – and it must not let itself become confused. Iran has not signed up for peace, as its foreign minister recently wrote in The Guardian . Iran is merely utilizing the tools given to it by Western democracies in order to stave off international pressure,” he said in the Thursday article.
“We must be clear-eyed when it comes to Tehran’s intentions. If the past teaches us anything about the current regime, it is this: The terror will continue, as will Tehran’s destructive regional role, and the military nuclear project will be close on its heels,” Shalom said.