Netanyahu gets tangled up in US election

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama on 5 March 2012 Barack Obama will not meet Benjamin Netanyahu at the UN General Assembly

Iran is not on the agenda. But it is on their minds.

As the big United Nations meeting gets underway, the West's biggest foreign policy challenge is not likely to be discussed.

But Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has bluntly demanded to know when the time will be right to use force against Iran's nuclear weapons programme.

He's asked the question so well that it has been turned into a US presidential election TV ad. The advert ends with the words: "The world needs American strength. Not apologies."

Given that Mitt Romney, author of No Apology, has repeatedly accused the president of apologising for America, it is not too hard to work out whom the ad is backing.

Of course Mr Netanyahu bears no responsibility for how others use his speeches. But Israeli officials do seem to be behind a claim that he had been snubbed by Mr Obama, who won't be meeting the prime minister at the UN.

Some in Israel say Mr Netanyahu is putting a vital relationship at risk.

He's sent a message to the White House stressing that he is not interfering in the American election on behalf of Mitt, with whom he worked in the 1970s.

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One well-connected insider has told me that many in the American Jewish community think Mr Netanyahu has been brazen and insolent”

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So, many in Washington are asking the question: "What is Bibi up to?"

While Downing Street and the White House are united in their public and private insistence that Iran must not get the bomb, they are also deeply unenthusiastic about getting involved in another war.

Some think Mr Netanyahu wants assurances that if Israel doesn't act before the US election, there will be American action after it.

Mr Obama is not willing to give such assurances, in public or private. There is a determination, not least because of public opinion, to negotiate with Iran until it either yields results or it becomes crystal clear to everyone that further negotiations are pointless.

One well-connected insider has told me that many in the American Jewish community think Mr Netanyahu has been brazen and insolent, that his tactic has backfired.

There's a belief that superficially, what Mr Netanyahu wants is simple. He would like to pressure Mr Obama to promise he will take military action, so Israel need not go it alone. But he will not be given this assurance.

So, my insider believes that having raised the possibility of war, "made everyone's flesh creep, and marched us up to the top of the mountain", the Israel leader is now looking for a "gilded ladder" to climb down.

That may reassure the White House ahead of an election, but it still leaves open how Mr Obama or a President Romney would resolve the larger crisis.

Mark Mardell, North America editor Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 25.


    Lou, that's just silly. Where do you think the Christians and Muslims derived their zealotry superiority complex from? Do you think Europe's desire for Empire comes from 'forgiveness, tolerance, and turning the other cheek'? I think not.

    Jews and Christians dislike Islam because it is too similar - never the twain shall meet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    It isn't only Netanyahu who seems to have influence. Coincidentally, 26 Muslim nations waited until this year after the 10+ previous to have a simultaneous attack on US soils abroad. You have to wonder, if there wasn't an election in the US, would it have been quite the same? I noticed the effigies of Obama didn't get burned until after the protests made national news and had begun to die down.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Obama's reaction to Netanyahu's pushy attempt at dictating US conduct is no proof of an anti-Israel stance on his part. Quite the contrary : the refusal to have American policy bullied around by a radical extremist such as Mr. Netanyahu and his supporters - certainly no help to Israel or peace prospects.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.


  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    The majority of Americans would defend Israel, and most , I believe are disappointed inObama. I would rather fight for Israel than for the other middle eastern countries, as would the majority of people here in the USA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    If Israel unilaterally disarms it's nuclear weapons then an attack on Iran is justified. If Israel didn't get the bomb in the first place we wouldn't be in the mess we are in now.

    America hasn't trusted Israel for decades - and for good reason. America only trusts the other main five powers of NATO. Hell, the USA even trusts Turkey more than Israel! All talk of special bonds is just bull.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    The USA has been letting Israel get away with occupying The West Bank and Gaza for too long, that's where the red line should be drawn. That's why there is so much anti-americanism in the Middle East. Starting another "preemptive" war wouldn't help. Israeli's need to get rid of Bibi as Americans are getting rid of his studge Romney! Peacemakers don't sabre rattle!

  • Comment number 18.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    war is not the answer. we still have one on going that is not helping anything.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    One of the greatest differences between the Judaic, Christian, and Islamic faiths is that Judaism and Christianity have in their faiths (though agreeably not practiced enough) are the acts of forgiveness, tolerance, and turning the other cheek where as Islam does not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    His commercial is basically asking Americans to be willing to die for Israel. Can you imagine how that would go down if the US government did the reverse in Israel? They would correctly be indignant to say the least.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    The one truth of any foreign policy as it applies to the Middle East is that as long as the US is seen by the Arab world as supporting the legitimate existance of the State of Israel, and as long as radical Islamic extremism rules the minds of many Muslims, the Arab world will continue to support regional and global attacks against US interests and its citizens.

  • Comment number 13.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    ref #4Deessy
    25 Minutes ago
    Every move made by Romney and co seems to be costing rather than gaining them votes. Pathetic.
    You do know the majority of Americans favor Israel and do not support the Palestinians
    Obama anti-Israeli stance is not well thought of in this country

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    My point, 600 seconds ago, was that sanctions will pressure Iran to clean house and get consistent on their nuclear ambitions. Military action is just going to drive home their need to have an atomic arsenal for defense, and will accelerate their tac-nuke development. Netanyahu is going way overboard and needs to calm down. Israel needs a more level head come next election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Obama is making a big mistake by distancing himself from the only Democratic ally in the Middle East. If he thinks this will keep Iran and other radical Middle Eastern countries from attacking the US, he is sadly mistaken. These countries dislike the US (and other Western nations) almost as much as they dislike Israel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    I don't believe it's a crisis just yet. Iran isn't single-minded on their efforts to nuclear armament. The Ayatolla has condemned it as a sin, and while I don't doubt his sincerity, I wish that were guarantee enough. There are factions that want tactical nuclear capability, rational enough though unacceptable, and others that want WMD's they can pass through proxies. Gimmie more characters, dammit

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Bibi did cross the line in doing a political ad.

    This does not excuse the shameful way he has been treated by President Obama.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Why make a big deal about Obama not meeting with Nentanyau at UN? Israel is not US only ally. Should Obama meet with leaders of UK, France, Japan, Australia etc? Sadly, everyone beating drum war or want US to rush into war with Iran will not be fighting in such a war nor will their sons & daughters. If Israel want to go to war with Iran, let it do so. Unfortunately, America will be dragged in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    What does Bibi want? He wants to install an Israeli puppet in the White House - Mitt Romney. Obama seems to have America's interest ahead of Israel's. Yes Bibi is missing the good old days of George W. Bush, when American lives and treasury were at his disposal. We are nation-building now. If Israel wants to go to war with Iran, let them feel free to do so. They don't need American resources.


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