the middle east

Obama to Netanyahu: Diplomacy and Sanctions Before Force

President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in the White House for three hours of talks on Monday concerning a nuclear Iran, a “friendly, straightforward, and serious” meeting but one that did not produce a mutual understanding about dealing with Iran. Obama preached patience and Netanyahu, imminence. “We do believe there is still a window that allows for a diplomatic resolution to this issue,” Obama said with Netanyahu next to him in the Oval Office. Obama reportedly argued that the European Union’s oil ban, scheduled to take effect in July, as well as the blacklisting of Iran’s central bank, would force Iran back to the table.

As far as where the allies stand now, The Wall Street Journal reports:

The U.S. officials believe Mr. Obama succeeded in conveying to Mr. Netanyahu that he takes the issue seriously and is willing to use force. But they wouldn’t say if Mr. Obama received a commitment from Mr. Netanyahu to hold off on a strike. The officials added that they believed Mr. Obama gave Mr. Netanyahu enough to allow him to return home and demonstrate that the U.S. is treating the issue as a top priority.

An Israeli official described the meeting as “very warm” and praised Mr. Obama for clearly stating that his policy is to deny Tehran a nuclear weapon, not containment. The official also underscored that, for Israel, maintaining its independence to act is its priority.

Despite rumors that Netanyahu would push Obama to establish “red lines” with respect to Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon that if crossed, would trigger U.S. military action against Iran, the conversation did not focus on those boundaries. According to Journal sources, Obama didn’t want to deviate from a broader policy: “preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon through diplomacy, sanctions and, as a last resort, force.

Meanwhile, red lines might tangle Netanyahu in ambiguity, while he seeks to preserve Israel’s sovereignty. “My supreme responsibility as prime minister of Israel is to ensure that Israel remains the master of its fate,” Netanyahu said.

Later Monday, Netanyahu spoke to powerful Israel lobbying group AIPAC, saying that Israel has waited in vain for diplomacy and sanctions to work.

None of us can afford to wait much longer,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “As prime minister of Israel, I will never let my people live in the shadow of annihilation.”

Obama to Netanyahu: Diplomacy and Sanctions Before Force