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Netanyahu Coming to Washington to Demand Obama Commit to Military Action

- Common Dreams staff

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is headed to Washington next week for the annual meeting of the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. While in town, Netanyahu will meet on Monday with President Obama to demand that the President commits to military action aginst Iran.

Israeli officials say that Binyamin Netanyahu is not happy with Obama's 'vague assertion' that all options are on the table in dealing with Iran. (photo/Jim Watson/AFP) Obama is reportedly frustrated by what he sees as political interference by Netanyahu to mobilize support for Israel's position in the US Congress. Netanyahu met a group of US senators last week and complained strongly about Obama administration officials publicly opposing an Israeli strike on Iran.

Mr. Obama speaks to the AIPAC delegates Sunday morning and Netanyahu addresses the group Monday night. On Tuesday, Republican presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich will speak to AIPAC.

Israeli officials told the Associated Press this week that Israel will not notify the US before an attack on Iran.

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The Guardian/UK is reporting this afternoon:

[...] Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, is expected to raise the issue at a White House meeting on Monday after weeks of intense diplomacy in which Obama has dispatched senior officials – including his intelligence, national security and military chiefs – to Jerusalem to try and dampen down talk of an attack.

Diplomats say that Israel is angered by the Obama administration's public disparaging of early military action against Iran, saying that it weakens the prospect of Tehran taking the warnings from Israel seriously.

The two sides are attempting to agree a joint public statement to paper over the divide but talks will not be made easier by a deepening distrust in which the Israelis question Obama's commitment to confront Iran while the White House is frustrated by what it sees as political interference by Netanyahu to mobilize support for Israel's position in the US Congress.

"They are poles apart," said one diplomatic source. "The White House believes there is time for sanctions to work and that military threats don't help. The Israelis regard this as woolly thinking.

They see Iran as headed towards a bomb, even though they agree there is no evidence Tehran has made that decision yet, and they want the White House to up the ante. The White House has the Europeans behind its position but it's losing Congress." [...]

Israeli officials say that Netanyahu is not happy with Obama's "vague assertion" that all options are on the table in dealing with Iran. The Israeli prime minister wants Obama to state unequivocally that Washington is prepared to use force if Iran's nuclear program advances beyond specified red lines. [...]

Netanyahu is not happy with Obama's "vague assertion" that all options are on the table in dealing with Iran. The Israeli prime minister wants Obama to state unequivocally that Washington is prepared to use forceThe chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, General Martin Dempsey, told Congress this week that during a recent visit to Jerusalem the principal difference was over the question of how long to give sanctions and diplomacy an opportunity to work. "We've had a conversation with them about time, the issue of time," he said.

Dempsey was one of several senior US officials to travel to Israel in recent weeks, including Obama's national security adviser, Tom Donilon, and the director of national intelligence, James Clapper.

Dempsey infuriated Netanyahu with comments that it is "premature" to launch an attack and that an Israeli assault on Iran would be imprudent and destabilizing, and not achieve Israel's objectives. He also said that Iran is a "rational" player and should be treated as such.

Netanyahu met a group of US senators last week, including John McCain, and complained strongly about Obama administration officials publicly opposing an Israeli strike on Iran.

After the meeting, McCain criticized the White House position. "There should be no daylight between America and Israel in our assessment of the [Iranian] threat. Unfortunately there clearly is some," he said.

McCain described relations between the US and Israel as in "very bad shape right now" saying that differences over Iran have caused "significant tension". He appeared to side with the Israeli position in noting that "there is very little doubt that Iran has so far been undeterred to get nuclear weapons".

Last week, 12 senators sent the president a letter warning that he should not allow Tehran to buy time by engaging in fruitless diplomatic negotiations, expected to begin in the coming weeks. They demanded that Obama insist Iran halt its uranium enrichment program before talks begin.

More than half the members of the Senate have backed a resolution that some see as pressing for an attack in declaring that the White House should not pursue a policy of "containment".

Senator Joe Lieberman, one of the sponsors of the resolution, said it is intended "to say clearly and resolutely to Iran: You have only two choices – peacefully negotiate to end your nuclear program or expect a military strike to end that program."

Critics of the resolution said that it smacks of a congressional authorization for an attack on Iran. That view was reinforced when the sponsors declined a request from some Democrats to amend it to clarify that the resolution did not imply consent for war.

Israeli officials told the Associated Press this week that Israel will not notify the US before an attack on Iran. US officials scoff at the idea that Washington would not know an assault is coming, and the Israeli position may be intended to allow the White House to deny any responsibility.

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