Israel wants US to threaten Iran with military action
Thursday, March 1, 2012
Israel's prime minister sets off this week on a U.S. visit clouded by a deepening rift with Washington, which is pressing Israel to hold off on any attack against Iran's suspect nuclear program.
Although Israel says it hasn't decided whether to strike, it has signaled readiness to do so -- a move that would have deep worldwide implications.
Senior Israeli officials say Israel would have to act by summer in order to be effective. U.S. officials, wary that an Israeli strike could drive up oil prices and entangle the U.S. in a new Mideast military confrontation during the presidential election season, want to give diplomacy and sanctions more time to work.
These differences have created tension ahead of Benjamin Netanyahu's arrival at the White House next Monday. Aides to the Israeli leader would not say what he plans to tell President Obama.
"The meeting will be a good opportunity to clarify both sides' stands on ... how to act against the Iranian nuclear threat, which both sides agree is grave," Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon told Israel Radio.
Israel's Haaretz and Israel Hayom newspapers reported Wednesday that Netanyahu wants Obama to deliver an explicit military threat to Iran in a joint statement to be issued after the meeting.
Differing assessments of urgency underlie the disagreements on Iran.
Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran to be a threat to the existence of the Jewish state. It cites Iranian leaders' repeated calls for Israel's destruction, support for anti-Israel militant groups and its arsenal of ballistic missiles that are already capable of striking Israel. It also fears a nuclear Iran would touch off an atomic weapons race in a region hostile to Israel's existence.
Israel itself is thought to have a significant arsenal of nuclear weapons, though it does not admit that as a matter of policy.