Obama Not to Touch Israel’s ‘Nuclear Nerve’, Iran War Not Off the Table
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and United States President Barack Obama will discuss the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions, a close aide to the Israeli premier said Sunday.
“This is an existential matter,” said National Security Council head Uzi Arad. “Iran is constantly advancing toward a nuclear capability, and joint efforts with the [Obama] administration to prevent this will be at the center of the discussion.”
Arad’s comments came shortly after Netanyahu arrived on Sunday in Washington, where he was scheduled to meet with Obama on Monday and propose that joint teams draft a new road map for the Palestinian peace process and a new strategy on Iran. >>>
In an interview published ahead of his meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama reiterated comments made by other top officials, saying that he understands why Israel considers Iran an existential threat.
“I understand very clearly that Israel considers Iran an existential threat, and given some of the statements that have been made by [Iranian] President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, you can understand why,” Obama said in an interview with Newsweek, which was published on its Web site and will appear in print in the magazine’s May 25 issue.
With respect to concerns Israel might carry out an air strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, the U.S. president said that since Israel is “right there in the range” of Iranian missiles, “their calculation of costs and benefits are going to be more acute.” >>>
Despite expectations that the Obama administration will pressure Israel to accept a two-state solution and implement practical measures, the U.S. administration has sent signals that aid to Israel will, in fact, be raised. At the same time, the budget also imposes harsh conditions on the Palestinian Authority in order to receive aid.
According to the Israeli daily, Haaretz, the budget proposed to Congress for 2010 includes $2.775 billion in aid to Israel, compared to $2.5 billon budgeted for 2009. This is more than a 10% increase in total U.S. aid to Israel.
The budget also includes an increase in the assistance to the production of weapons systems, such as the missile Hetz-3.
The U.S. Congress proposed to raise the amount of aid to Israel for the development of the Hetz-3 missile—the Arrow “Interceptor” in English—from $30 million to $37.5 million. Israel considers continuous support in the development of this anti-missile missile a victory for the Israeli security establishment. >>>
President Barack Obama says the U.S. has not taken military action against Iran over its nuclear program off the table ahead of the Israeli premier’s trip to Washington.
In an interview with Newsweek on Saturday, Obama made it clear that he did not take any options off the table when asked about war with Iran.
“I’ve been very clear that I don’t take any options off the table with respect to Iran. I don’t take options off the table when it comes to U.S. security, period,” said Obama.
Iran would be a main topic of talks during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with President Obama in Washington this week.
The new government of Barack Obama says it wants to engage diplomatically with Iran to resolve the country’s nuclear issue but has simultaneously followed in the Bush adminestration’s footsteps by pursuing double-edged policy of carrots and sticks with Iran.
“What I have said is that we want to offer Iran an opportunity to align itself with international norms and international rules,” the U.S. president noted in his Saturday interview.
President Obama once again accused Tehran of being a threat to the region.
The Islamic Republic of Iran could be “a member in good standing of the international community and not a threat to its neighbors,” according to the first black leader in the U.S.
Obama also justified later U.S. government decisions if nuclear talks do not stop Iran’s pursuit of the nuclear know-how which Tehran — a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty — refuses to relinquish as its inalienable rights according to NPT regulations.
“If it doesn’t work, the fact that we have tried will strengthen our position in mobilizing the international community, and Iran will have isolated itself, as opposed to a perception that it seeks to advance that somehow it’s being victimized by a U.S. government that doesn’t respect Iran’s sovereignty,” Obama said.
In April, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told US lawmakers that Washington was ‘willing’ to engage diplomatically with Iran but at the same time threatened Tehran with ‘very tough, crippling sanctions‘ if the desired results were not achieved.
The U.S. president also ruled out making decision for Tel Aviv to prevent the regime from launching a unilateral war against Tehran.
“I don’t think it’s my place to determine for the Israelis what their security needs are,” he said.
“I can make an argument to Israel as an ally that the approach we are taking is one that has to be given a chance and offers the prospect of security, not just for the United States but also for Israel that is superior to some of the other alternatives.”
However, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon earlier on Saturday said that he could not imagine any attack against Iran without Washington’s approval.
Washington and Tel Aviv — the sole possessor of a nuclear warhead in the Middle East — have stepped up accusations that Iran is amassing weapons-grade uranium.
According to the latest International Atomic Energy Agency figures, however, Iran has produced some 1,010 kilograms of low enriched uranium (LEU) — a level “less than 5 percent.”
Only enriched to high levels of above 90 percent, can uranium be used for production of nuclear weapons.
Arab League Chief Amr Moussa on Sunday urged U.S. President Barack Obama to raise Israel’s ambiguous nuclear program onto the agenda for discussion, rather than focusing on Iran’s contentious uranium enrichment.
According to Moussa, Israel’s ambiguous nuclear policy posed more concern for Arab leaders than the program now underway in Iran.
The Arab League announced during a summit in March that member states would walk away from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty if Israel ever officially acknowledges it has nuclear weapons. >>>
A senior U.S. official says the Obama administration will eventually resign itself to Israel’s 40-year refusal to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
One week after Israel responded with shock and anger to U.S. calls for nuclear disarmament, a senior White House official speaking on condition of anonymity said U.S. President Barack Obama has no choice but to remain committed to Israel’s so-called policy of nuclear opacity.
He said that he doubted Israel would sign in on the NPT “until there is a change in the overall political and security context,” adding that Washington’s endorsement of Israel’s atomic arsenal will remove some of the obstacles clouding the upcoming meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu.
Setting himself directly against key plank of U.S. policy, such as adherence to the NPT and a final push for a Palestinian settlement, Netanyahu has largely strived to shift the focus to Iran’s low-level nuclear program instead.
This is while Tel Aviv is widely regarded as the sixth-largest nuclear power in the world and the sole possessor of an atomic arsenal in the Middle East. Israel reportedly houses at least 100 bunker-busting bombs, which come in the form of laser-guided mini-nukes with the ability of penetrating underground targets.
For 40 years, Tel Aviv and Washington have prevented Israel’s undeclared arsenal of approximately 200 atomic warheads from becoming public.
During the Kennedy administration, Israel allowed American inspectors to make visits to its Dimona plant, but investigations eventually came to a halt in 1969 when former US president Richard Nixon secretly endorsed Tel Aviv’s atomic arsenal.
Israel, in the early 1970s, had already developed missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads to most countries in the region, including Iran and Russia.
Senior Israeli political, military and intelligence figures have relentlessly threatened to bomb Iran’s nuclear infrastructure out of existence, but the prospect of go-it-alone Israeli air strikes has significantly risen since Benjamin Netanyahu took up the baton in Tel Aviv.
This is while the United States has strictly warned Israel against launching an attack on the Islamic Republic without its consent.
Arab Secretary General Amr Moussa has called on Arab leaders not to meet Israel’s Premier unless Tel Aviv halts illegal settlements of the occupied West Bank.
Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on the Middle East on Sunday, Moussa said that a halt to Israel’s settlement construction “must be a precondition” to a meeting between Netanyahu and any Arab leader.
Arab leaders who plan to meet Benjamin Netanyahu “must not meet with him if building in the settlements continues and if demolitions of (homes) in Arab villages continue. This will change the demographic balance and undermine our cause.”
“If they meet with him, they will be publicly rejecting the two-state solution, and therefore the freezing of all settlement building must be a prerequisite, otherwise we Arabs will be undermining our own cause,” he added.
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and constructed thousands of settlements in the occupied city.
More than 285,000 Israelis currently live in the Jewish settlements which are considered as illegal by the international community. The issue has even prompted Washington, Tel Aviv’s closest ally, to express opposition to the settlement activities.
This is while Israel’s hawkish Transport Minister Yisrael Katz says that “the greater Jerusalem should continue to be built.”
“All Zionist parties in Israel believe that the settlement blocs must be boosted and built up, in line with the issue of natural growth,” he was quoted as saying on Saturday by Ynet.
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- Iran Urges World Action on Israeli Nukes; Russia Urges U.N. to Push Israel Over Peace (11 May 09)
- Israel is Just Using Iran to Stall Progress on the Middle East (8 May 09)