Obama initiates September meeting with Netanyahu to renew Iran dialogue
The White House has urgently contacted Jerusalem to arrange for US President Barack Obama to get together with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the next UN General Assembly session opening in New York on Sept. 18, debkafile’s Washington and Jerusalem sources report. Netanyahu is preparing a tough speech inveighing against Iran’s nuclear aspirations, its calls to annihilate the state of Israel and widespread anti-Semitism. He plans to accuse Iranian leaders of assuming the role of contemporary Nazis and call for their expulsion from the world organization.
Sources close to Obama admit that the dialogue on Iran with Israeli leaders has run its course since neither side believes it can change its opposite number’s mind. This communications cutoff is hurting the president’s campaign for reelection.
Washington’s media offensive to tie Israel’s hands against attacking Iran before voting day on Nov. 6 climaxed with the news briefing given by US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey at the Pentagon Tuesday, Aug. 14. They accentuated Israel’s weaknesses and argued that an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would gain very little time.
Earlier that day, the opening shot of the counter-campaign landed in the influential Wall Street Journal in an article entitled Iran Doesn't Belong in the UN or IMF, under the bylines of former UN ambassador John Bolton and the heads of the United Against Nuclear Iran organization, Mark Wallace and Kristen Silverberg.
They wrote that by allowing Iran to use their platforms to disseminate anti-Semitic propaganda, the UN and IMF are complicit in aiding the development of the Iranian nuclear program.
The next day, the White House went into action for a meeting with Netanyahu, aware that a strong Netanyahu speech at the UN General Assembly highlighting Iran’s progress toward building a nuclear bomb and its anti-Semitism would connect with mounting anti-Iran opinion in America and show Obama in a bad light as standing against military action against Iran by the United States and, more particularly, Israel.
Even before that, damage was caused the Obama campaign by the widely-reported remarks by Israeli Ambassador to Washington Michael Oren on Wednesday, Aug. 15, asserting that Israel would be willing to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, even if doing so only delayed its ability to produce nuclear weapons for a few years.
“One, two, three, four years are a long time in the Middle East — look what’s happened in the last year” in terms of political change, Oren said today at a Bloomberg Government breakfast in Washington. “In our neighborhood, those are the rules of the game.”
He went on to stress, “Diplomacy hasn’t succeeded. We’ve come to a very critical juncture where important decisions do have to be made.”
Even before Ambassador Oren’s rejoinder, Washington insiders found the Panetta-Dempsey briefing unconvincing because it essentially covered well-trodden ground without new facts. Its timing was also unfortunate, said debkafile’s Washington sources, because the White House had already set in motion arrangements for an Obama-Netanyahu meeting for putting their understandings on Iran back on course.
At the moment, they admitted, the US and Israel are no longer talking, because, “Both know that they have said all they have to say on the subject and remain divided." But, they say, "The president can’t afford to let matters rest there. He will have to perform urgent repairs when he meets Netanyahu in September.”
That too is not plain sailing. Our sources report that while the prime minister is perfectly willing to meet Obama, he says it would be only proper for him to meet his rival for the presidency, Governor Mitt Romney, as well. The president’s emissaries object on the grounds that Romney recently visited Israel. Their Israeli interlocutors respond that the government would be happy to host Obama in Israel too, even before the presidential election. Both sides are acutely aware that he missed visiting Israel in the course of his presidency.