U.S. President Barack Obama welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, March 5, (Reuters / Jason Reed)
Israel will decide for itself whether to strike Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Barack Obama. The US President is stressing the need to find a diplomatic resolution to the issue of Iran’s nuclear program.
The two leaders met Monday in the White House ahead of Netanyahu’s speech later today before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Israel fears Iran is seeking to develop an atomic bomb, although Tehran insists its nuclear plans are strictly civilian.
“Israel must reserve the right to defend itself and after all, that’s the very purpose of the Jewish state, to restore to the Jewish people control of our destiny,” Netanyahu told Obama while the two leaders were seated in the Oval Office.
Netanyahu pushed back against the Obama administration’s repeated attempts to dissuade Israel from attacking Iran.
“My supreme responsibility as Prime Minister of Israel is to ensure that Israel remains the master of its fate,” he told Obama.
On Sunday, Obama told the AIPAC conference in Washington that the US “will not hesitate” to use force to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
“I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he said. “And as I’ve made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.”
However, the US President stressed that diplomacy could still succeed.
“I firmly believe that an opportunity remains for diplomacy – backed by pressure – to succeed,” he said. “The United States and Israel both assess that Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon, and we are exceedingly vigilant in monitoring their program.”
Israel fears it may soon lose its window to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities. Washington, on the other hand, is pressuring Tel Aviv to hold off on what it considers would be a premature and dangerous attack on Iran, arguing that economic sanctions require time to take hold.
‘Israel won’t strike’
Despite Netanyahu’s harsh rhetoric, Joshua Holland, an editor at the alternative news portal AlterNet, thinks Israel is not likely to attack Iran.
“It would put Israel in a position where it is the aggressor in the eyes of much of the international community,” he told RT.
“I think that this is saber-rattling by and large on Israel’s part, in order to put pressure on Western powers to increase the sanctions regime against the Iranian government,” Holland said, adding that, “The sanctions are reportedly working.”