As Obama and Netanyahu meet, Israel is split on Iran

Story to watch: The U.S., Israel and Iran's nuclear program

By Michael May

U.S. President Barack Obama meeting on Monday with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House. (Reuters/Jason Reed)

As President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held their private meeting on Monday morning at the White House, Latitude News is looking at how this story will ripple through the week. Undoubtedly they discussed ways to stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and probably the election climate in Iran. Netanyahu has threatened to unleash Israel’s elite air force on the country’s nuclear facilities, with or without the cooperation of the United States. Obama has warned that the threats are not helping a tense situation and has urged patience.

So, what do Israelis hope to get out of the meeting?

It depends on one’s political perspective, of course. The conservative English-language paper the Jerusalem Post ran two columns raising the specter of war with Iran. One, by Jay Bushinsky, equates a nuclear Iran to the threat of a second Holocaust, and argues that only Israel and the U.S. have the tactical means to stop Iran from developing the bomb. He lays out the argument for a unilateral strike by Israel, and the possible retaliation from Iran, before concluding that Israel and the U.S. must work out a “realistic plan” to stop the “nightmare” before it’s too late.

The other, by Udi Segal, is titled, “How to prevent an Israeli strike on Iran.” In it, Segal argues that Obama needs to say “trust me!—but in a persuasive way.” What Segal means is that Obama has to clearly state that if Iran crosses a “red line,” then the U.S. would attack. Segal says Obama needs to let Netanyahu know where that line lies, and stick to his word and attack if necessary.

On the other side of the spectrum, the left-leaning daily Haaretz unleashed an opposing volley of editorials. The paper’s official unsigned editorial summed up their argument, “Israel would be wise to listen to Obama’s advice on Iran.”

Another column, by Sefi Rachlevsky, addresses a plan making the rounds in Israel: “Sometime between early June and mid-August, just before the Republican nominating convention, will be the ideal moment to drag the United States into war, the planners believe.”

Rachlevsky argues that Israel can’t stop Iran’s nuclear program on its own, and would be foolish to try to trick the U.S. into joining a war. His message to Netanyahu: “You don’t gamble Israel’s security on conspiracies.”

And a third Haaretz column, by Akiva Eldar, points out that the scuffle over Iran has already played into Netanyahu’s interests: “From Netanyahu’s point of view, Monday’s meeting with Obama succeeded even before it took place. This will be the first time that the president does not nag him about the Palestinian state, about the 1967 borders, about freezing the settlements.”

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