Netanyahu Seeks to Downplay US-Israel Policy Split

March 7, 2012  

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday tried to downplay clear differences between Jerusalem and Washington over Iran.

“We’ve had a very good visit in Washington, first in our discussion with the president in the Oval Office… and now culminating in this remarkable display of solidarity here in the Congress of the United States,” he said as he prepared to return to Israel.

“I go back to Israel feeling that we have great friends in Washington.”

However, their divergent comments from the two leaders on Tuesday – Obama at a news conference and Netanyahu on Capitol Hill – highlighted the differences that remain between the two leaders.

Netanyahu firmly reasserted that Israel is the “master of her own fate” and vigorously defended Israel’s right to take unilateral diplomatic and military action to preserve its interests while in Washington.

For his part, Obama again refused to commit to red lines for military action on Iran saying he “has Israel’s back” while dismissing the need for military action and disparaging the “drums of war.”

Defense Minister Ehud Barak and other Israeli officials have warned that Iran may be only months away from reaching a zone of immunity where its nuclear activities in deep underground facilities would be invulnerable to Israeli air strikes.

Jerusalem, joined by Western European diplomats, maintains Iran is actively pursuing nuclear weapons and plans enrich its uranium stores to the 93% purity level needed for nuclear weapons.

The Obama administration says it does not believe Iran has taken a decision to develop a nuclear weapon, or that the time is right for military action, preferring to give biting new sanctions time to work.

Israel, which sees a possible Iranian nuclear weapon as a potentially existential threat, claims Iran may be on the cusp of “breakout” capability — when it could quickly build a nuclear weapon.

Should Iran decide to make a nuclear bomb, proliferation experts say the world would have a window of 2.5 to 3 months to detect and stop Tehran’s bid to join the so-called nuclear club.

In his speech to AIPAC, Netanyahu also sought to minimize the differences between himself and the US president.

Obama “stated clearly that all options are on the table and that American policy is not containment,” Netanyahu said. “Israel has exactly the same policy.”

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