'Obama gave PM concrete guarantees'

Officials: US-Israel ties upgraded; Netanyahu: Israel won't disarm.

By TORONTO, HAVIV RETTIG GUR
May 31, 2010 01:39
4 minute read.
Netanyahu and Obama during their meeting in the Wh

Netanyahu and Obama . (photo credit: Associated Press)

President Barack Obama gave Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu “concrete guarantees” that the US will strengthen Israel’s strategic capabilities, sources in Jerusalem said late Sunday evening.

Top government officials said there has recently been a “significant upgrade in ties” regarding security understandings between Washington and Jerusalem.

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Over the weekend, Israeli officials were angered and surprised by the Obama administration’s decision to support the vote at the UN by 189 member states of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to single out Israel for its alleged possession of nuclear weapons, The Jerusalem Post was told on Sunday.

The vote Friday garnered an unusually harsh Israeli retort over the weekend, in which the Prime Minister’s Office said the resolution “ignores the realities of the Middle East” and focuses “on the only country in the world that is actually threatened with annihilation.”

Netanyahu seemed to reiterate the point in a speech in Toronto on Sunday, in which he told some 7,000 people gathered at the city’s Ricoh Coliseum ahead of the annual United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto Walk for Israel that “the establishment of the State of Israel has given the Jewish people the power to repel the attacks on the Jewish people.

“There are those who want to strip Israel of that power,” he warned. “I promise you that will never happen. Israel will never give up the power to defend itself.”

Referring to Iran as the number one threat to Israel, Netanyahu said, “We have to ensure that this regime, the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, does not acquire the weapons of mass death.”

The American vote in support of the resolution on Israel’s nuclear facilities has cast a shadow over the Tuesday meeting in the White House between Netanyahu and Obama.

That meeting, which was originally intended to deal with recent advances in the diplomatic process as US-mediated proximity talks with the Palestinian Authority began, will now deal also with the nuclear issue.

“This vote left us feeling that the White House is saying that Israel’s needs are expendable in the search for international consensus,” a diplomatic source said on Sunday.

Intelligence Services Minister and security cabinet member Dan Meridor added that Israel had believed that the US was working toward a “much more balanced proposal” at the UN parley.

Speaking to Channel 1 on Sunday, Meridor said “the issue will come up [in Tuesday’s Netanyahu-Obama summit] in all its seriousness, and I hope we’ll be able to find ways to correct the damage.”

Obama criticized the resolution over the weekend, saying, “We strongly oppose efforts to single out Israel, and will oppose actions that jeopardize Israel’s national security.”

But Netanyahu is expected to use Tuesday’s meeting to ask why the US allowed the resolution to pass in the first place.

The answer may reflect a confused American policy, according to Middle East scholar and former ambassador to Washington Itamar Rabinovich.

“The Americans were trapped in a contradiction – the commitment to Israel’s [nuclear] nondisclosure policy alongside Obama’s desire to enact a larger reform on the nuclear issue. They couldn’t sustain that contradiction,” he explained in an interview on Israeli television Sunday, so the administration was forced to sacrifice Israel’s interests on that issue in order to obtain a consensus resolution on non-proliferation.

“I wouldn’t call this a betrayal, but it was a misstep,” Rabinovich said.

The 28-page resolution voted on Friday was the concluding statement of a monthlong parley of NPT member nations. It calls for the reduction of nuclear warhead stockpiles by the world’s nuclear powers and urges an increase in the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu used his speech in Toronto to reiterate his long-standing insistence on a demilitarized Palestinian state as a key Israeli demand in peace talks, saying that Israel couldn’t afford a third Iranian presence – in addition to Lebanon and Gaza – overlooking the hills of Tel Aviv.

“We must insure that any future Palestinian state is effectively demilitarized – not just a paper agreement. We’ve had a lot of paper agreements with the international community. We had one in Lebanon – it didn’t work. And we had one in Gaza that didn’t work. Here we must have effective arrangements on the ground, in which Israel and Israel alone can vouch for its security. We’re prepared to make compromises for peace, but I’m not willing to make any compromises on our security,” he said.

Netanyahu also insisted that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, to more applause.

“Just we as we are asked to recognize a nation state for the Palestinian people, the Palestinians will have to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people,” he said.

Oded Ben-Josef contributed to this report.   


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