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 85.

    #82 , like say .... "It's hard to know just how well it will turn out. There are a few things that were disconcerting" did he run that one by London? Or are they not an ally?

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    Natanyahu as per the " Begin Doctrine" will not accept a countering nuclear power in middle east in order to maintain a perpetual strategic advantage over his neighbours. A nuclear Iran will be a stabilizing factor in the region, similar to the India/Pakistan or the old US/USSR deterrence through the equation of mutual destruction. Obama's position is supported worldwide.Natanyahu is alone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    Netanyahu is beginning to act and sound more and more like Doctor Strangelove wanting to try out his nuclear toys. Israel itself has never signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a rule of law. Israel did exactly what Iran is doing now by hiding their secret advancement of nuclear bombs. Mordecai Vanunun was the nuclear worker that was the whistleblower on Israel's secret nuclear development.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    re 70.moderate_observer:
    "The comment by M.R.'“Before I made a statement of that nature, I’d get on the phone to my friend Bibi Netanyahu and say: ‘Would it help if I say this? What would you like me to do?’ “ seems to make it clear who will be in charge if he wins."

    Yes, it's so much more presidential to act and speak without any regard for the opinions of our friends and allies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Sir Hamilton Gibb died in 1971. Maybe he was right in his day, but not now. Of course, he must have missed the '67 war, guess he was too busy reading the Koran to notice all of those peaceful Muslim nations trying to destroy Israel. Of course, he was dead by the '73 Yom Kippur war...

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Then, this is a lesson on tolerance no longer taught by the Mullahs or Imams. Or is it just no longer politically correct for the multitude of the faithful to profess it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    Scott0962@71"What effect have sanctions had on Iran... None."

    Do you have any actual knowledge of how the sanctions are effecting the people of Iran & their relations with their present government?

    "When the game plan isn't working...toss it and try something different?"

    Do you have any specific "something different" to suggest short of a war that may escalate out of control very rapidly?

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    When Mr. Netanyahu came here about a year ago and addressed our congress and senate...people were so excited. They wanted him to run for President here is the USA (of course that is not possible). But citizens were excited about his speech and about his knowledge and primarily his passion.. He has a large following in the United States..

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

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

    I can't speak for a majority but many of us feel a nuclear armed Iran would be a destabilizing force in the region and could lead to more nuclear proliferation--however, no one here is keen on sending in troops. Those who think a quick military strike can solve the problem cheaply are engaging in wishful thinking.

  • Comment number 75.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Sure Sunni Muslims are tolerant of other Sunni Muslims but if they be Shitte or Sufi Muslims all bets are off. Sure there are stories of love, forgiveness, and tolerance in the Q'ran but these acts are between fellow Muslims. Plus, the role of Muslim women, as with dhimmis are in a "protected" status and like dhimmis have no legal or political rights.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    The dilemma is this, after iraq and Afgh, do you now declare war on a 3rd large middle east state in less than 15 yrs. Facing 16Trillion in debt will this bankrupt the state? No POTUS would be willing to commit under these circumstances. Every major empire who have lost it's status lost it as a result of war. Who will finance this one and how will they be paid back?

  • Comment number 72.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    re. #64.carsafrica: "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."

    What effect have sanctions had on Iran's nuclear program? None. What effect will "rigid sanctions" have? None. When the game plan isn't working do you continue to use it until the game is lost or toss it and try something different?

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    The comment by M.R.'“Before I made a statement of that nature, I’d get on the phone to my friend Bibi Netanyahu and say: ‘Would it help if I say this? What would you like me to do?’ “ seems to make it clear who will be in charge if he wins.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Typical Obama - tries to please everybody and ends up being weak and vacillating (cue OBL comments - which, of course, was only possible because of GWB-authorised waterboarding confessions that Obama objected to)

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    @ 57.USASuzette

    Like Mitt Romney you must resort to lies to defend the heinous. Keep matters in context:
    • "Damn America" was about the wrongful wars for profit. Everyone knows this except you.
    • And DO you know where Mitt made his money? Have you seen his tax returns prior to 2010? Why won't he show rest of us?
    • And why are his campaign contributors concealed?

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    It's true that Islam recognizes Jews & Christians as original peoples of the Holy Book. However, Jews and Christians, since the time of Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub, lived a dhimmi status. Though "protected", there was no equality with Muslims. Dhimmis have to pay a special tax in order to worship. Plus dhimmis are denied legal rights and are subjected to convertion to Islam.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    The only alternative to Obama thinks helping the children of the poor is socialism.


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