Less than a week before his planned speech to Congress on the Iranian nuclear threat, tensions between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama have continued to escalate.
Quoting senior US officials,The Wall Street Journalreported that the White House’s hostility to Netanyahu is borne out by the fact that President Obama views Netanyahu as the most serious threat to his efforts to secure an agreement with the Iranians on their nuclear program.
The report alleged that senior officials have attacked the upcoming speech’s credibility and influence, by presenting the Prime Minister as an automatic opponent to any deal with Iran, without regard to its terms and without alternative approaches. They claimed that Netanyahu is not calling for tougher sanctions to produce a better agreement, but is only expressing unconditional opposition to any agreement.
Other White House officials added that the current deterioration in Israeli-American relations is different than those which have occurred in the past. Disagreements in the past have centered on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, but this disagreement is much more critical, since it affects not just Israel, but the security of the entire world. They therefore argue that the tensions will likely continue even after the upcoming elections in Israel, because the disagreement between Netanyahu and Obama is a disagreement on core policy, not just on its execution.
President Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, said on Tuesday that Netanyahu is undermining the long-standing tradition of bipartisanship in the US-Israel relationship and is “destructive of the fabric of the relationship.”
Sources close to Netanyahu have said that the Prime Minister finds himself in a bind: on the one hand, he desires to maintain good relations with the American administration, but on the other hand, he wants the Iranian nuclear threat against Israel totally removed. These sources have said that the Prime Minister has been forced to prioritize handling the Iranian threat because of the proximity of the deadline for talks on March 31.
Dore Gold, who served as an adviser to the Prime Minister on international affairs, said that “sometimes in the life of a nation, you have to make hard choices.” He noted that, “Iran is not some agreement about a settlement. This is a life-or-death question for Israel,” and compared Netanyahu’s predicament to former Prime Minister Eshkol’s, who agonized over launching a preemptive strike against the Arab military buildup in 1967.