Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough calls the relationship between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu “workmanlike,” enabling the two leaders to immediately address the important issues on their agendas.
Speaking on Wednesday on May 9 to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Weinberg Founders Conference, McDonough stated that accounts of tensions between Obama and Netanyahu are a “funhouse mirror” distortion of reality. The official said that “no President since Harry Truman has done as much for Israel’s security as Barack Obama,” citing such security assistance as funding for the Iron Dome anti-missile system, extensive joint military maneuvers, and US intervention when the Israeli embassy in Cairo was being mobbed.
He said that the two countries have “an almost identical assessment of timelines” to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. “We believe the policy we are pursuing is working and will give us the best opportunity to address the challenge once and for all,” he said, adding that in addition to diplomacy and sanctions, “all options are on the table.”
“We know what we have to get done and when we have to get it done by,” McDonough said. Iran is more isolated and its legitimacy more questioned than at any time since the 1979 revolution due to international sanctions and Tehran’s support for the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria.
Israel’s Amos Yadlin versus US Denis McDonough
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Washington sources report that McDonough represents the new White House line which perceives an important change in Tehran and a willingness never before evinced for fruitful negotiations on its nuclear program.
This upbeat, confident line was challenged by the former head of Israeli military intelligence, Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, who is considered an authoritative voice close to the views of Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Iran.
Speaking on the same day as McDonough to another official Washington audience, he said, “We (the Israelis) are warning that Iran is close to entering a ‘zone of immunity’ in which its nuclear facilities would be invulnerable to attack.”
“There is a very thin line,” Yadlin said, “between too early to attack and too late to attack” and urged former Israeli security officials who lobby against Israeli policy on Iran to moderate their voices in public discussions on the Iran issue.
The Arab Spring advanced American values, says White House official
Other Israeli circles in Washington were highly skeptical of claims by administration sources that the backdoor US-Iranian track had progressed far enough for Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to seek personal US guarantees to safeguard him if he risked making far-reaching concessions on Iran’s nuclear program.
One option heard from administration officials was to offer him a guarantee not to treat him like Syria’s Bashar Assad who is targeted to be ousted from power.
Israeli circles say that rumor comes from people who have no knowledge about the state of the secret bilateral US-Iranian dialogue and even less about the internal situation within the regime headed by the ayatollah.
Denis McDonough spoke eloquently about another Middle East issue, stating that the Obama administration believes the Arab Spring is promoting American values by fighting for democracy and empowering larger groups of people than ever before,
At the same time, the US official said, the White House has “eyes wide open” with regard to the incoming Islamist government in Egypt and is focusing on such areas as the new government’s commitment to protecting individual rights, strengthening civil society, the treatment of Coptic Christians, forsaking violence, cooperating on counter terrorism, maintaining the peace treaty with Israel, and the security of the Sinai peninsula.
McDonough added that unlike the Mubarak regime, today's Egyptian government lacks a single interlocutor with whom to make policy.