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 Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

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  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    I do not agree with giving money to banks and corporations. Neither do I like that fact that we send 1.4 Billion dollars to Egypt.I would prefer that our money be kept here in the USA and I would prefer the poor being helped. I do not think that helping the children and the poor is socialism, but our duty as a country. We are failing at this right now. But Obama is not the answer. ( BLUES55 )

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Mr Netanyahu is fond of sports analogies so he should understand that there is a game plan and that Is to apply rigid sanctions against Iran.
    To publicly question the plan he undermines it's possibility of success.
    Better he works to get China, Russia ,India on board and if he has reservations express them privately.Sanctions work ask FW De Klerk

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    ref #59

    You are naive in putting a moral equivilency argument between the two.

    Israel is a responsbile first class nation
    Iran is a intolerant theocratic dicatorship

    Does that make biased or just honest?

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Just now

    Thank you for the paper, I am reading it now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    how come americans think that using their wealth to heal poor sick folk is socialism, yet giving billions to wealthy corporations to make bombs so that they can control the price of oil is not? it is a welfare state for the wealthy, the american blood lust is going to drag the world into another global conflict. pax americana is no peace at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    48.Agent 00Soul
    "I'd like to find out what the majority of Americans think."

    DefinItely no boots on the ground. To deploy and sustain that is militarily unfeasible. But a few well placed GPS-guided HE Bunker-Busters delivered by Tomahawk cruise missiles or B-2B Stealth bombers on their known nuclear facilities in the under populated northeastern region is not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.


    it is not about taking sides, it is about the fact that israel has the bomb and the fact that if one country has it them others will want it too, an israeli nuclear monopoly is not good for the region, why wouldnt iran want one? ow does this make me naive, your position implies you are biased.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Iran wants nuclear weapons. I'm sure many other countries in the region would like them too.

    We have them, and so does Russia. Perhaps Mr. Putin would like to help us deliver them to the region. They could be there in about 15 minutes, coming in on sub-orbital arcs.

    That could solve a lot of problems, and save billions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    19 Minutes ago

    @ 47.mabelwhite
    Yes and Obama has his money and Bill Ayres is all over him and was part of a church for 20 years that damned the USA...hmmmm , I will take Romney. At least I know where he got his money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    I recently read the summary to "Weighing Benefits and Costs of Military Action Against Iran" from a variety of former US military, state, and intelligence officials known as "The Iran Project".

    When I got to the segment discussing an "EXIT STRATEGY" my jaw nearly hit the floor.

    "Overplaying their hand" is an understatement. Hopefully this will act as an inoculation to unnecessary "foolishness".

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Palestine allows their people to suffer so they can blame Israel. Iran is a danger not because they are Muslim, but because they are reckless and because Iran believes in fairy-tales like the West is causing their droughts. Israel is usually correct about the situation in their region. Likewise, Iran may not build a nuke but they could supply fuel for dirty bombs to their "Peace" fighters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    ref #52

    I can't believe your naivite. Iran has been attacking Israel through terrorist surrogates.

    Why anyone would take the side of a illegal regime like Iran instead of a progressive modern conutry like Israel is beyond me?

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Agent 00Soul
    I would like a poll too, and i think it would be in favor. JMHO

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    I cannot believe the naiviety of the question, america and england both support the israeli nuclear arms monopoly, thats why a very war weary and nervous iran want the same device, israel should be disarmed, also israel is doing nothing to calm the area down and is in fact in breach of un statutes, wars of conquest are not really allowed anymore yet israel is conquering palestine, romney is war.

  • Comment number 51.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    @ 47.mabelwhite

    Mitt Romney has personal dictators:
    1) His church
    2) Money - and Sheldon Adelson is all over him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    It think are 2 issues here. 1) When will Iran have a nuclear capability? 2) Will it dare to use it when it has it?

    If you believe Iran mad enough to use it (esp. faced with the equivalent of a M.A.D. doctrine), then preemptive military action may be justified -- with time & means to be chosen by the international community, not just the US & Israel.

    Pakistan is a bigger threat -- now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    43 Amazedatyou

    I hope not, but that commercial does look dangerously like Bibi asking the US to go to war with Iran. If the last 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown, US soldier citizens will die, even if the war is won - there is no "home by Christmas" here. Is it really worth it? I'd like to find out what the majority of Americans think.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    I hope US would never do anything just because "Bibi" sez so - why on earth did Romney imply that he would do Bibi's bidding ? I think Romney's 10 years of campaigning for president have taken their toll

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.


    Mr Obama is no real friend of Israel & it becomes more & more apparrent.
    No, and why is that? That is the question me and my friends would like answered. We do not agree with Obama."
    Me neither.


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