The US president and the Israeli prime minister have expressed agreement on the goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, the White House said.
Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu sought on Friday to ease tensions over how to deal with Iran’s nuclear programme, presenting a show of solidarity over how to confront Tehran.
Obama, widely seen as having snubbed Netanyahu by not meeting face-to-face during the annual UN gathering, spoke instead by phone to the Israeli leader amid signs of movement toward a truce in their war of words.
Netanyahu used his UN speech a day earlier to keep pressure on Washington to set a “clear red line” for Tehran.
But in a softening of his approach, he signaled that no Israeli attack on Iran was imminent before the November 6 US presidential election.
With an eye to the close US presidential race, Netanyahu also fielded a call during his New York visit from Obama’s
Republican rival, Mitt Romney, who has accused the president of being too hard on a close US ally and not tough enough on Iran.
At the same time, Israeli officials – mindful of the danger of antagonising the Jewish state’s main ally and military aid Obama’s aides were furious that Netanyahu was trying to put pressure on the president in the midst of the election campaign and refused to budge on the red line issue despite the risk of alienating pro-Israel voters in election battleground states like Florida and Ohio.
|Iran’s nuclear facilities [Al Jazeera]|
Netanyahu dramatically ramped up pressure on Obama earlier this month when he insisted that the United States did not have a “moral right” to hold Israel back from taking action against Iran because Washington had not set its own limits on Tehran’s nuclear developments.
Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, flew back for a short visit to Jerusalem last weekend, during which he urged Netanyahu to tone down public statements that could be construed as interfering in the US election or supporting Romney, according to sources in the Jewish community in Washington.
The Israeli desire to defuse the crisis may also have reflected an interpretation of recent US opinion polls showing
a widening of Obama’s lead over Romney, who has suffered a series of campaign stumbles.
Romney, speaking to reporters on his campaign plane, said he and Netanyahu agreed that Iran must be denied nuclear
capabilities but did not agree on specific “red lines” to confront Tehran.
“I do not believe in the final analysis we will have to use military action,” Romney said. “I certainly hope we don’t have
to. I can’t take that action off the table.”
Netanyahu’s praise for Obama’s stern words for Iran in the US president’s own UN speech on Tuesday – although it lacked any specific ultimatum – was also seen as a sign that the Israeli leader wanted a ceasefire in the unusually public dispute with Washington.