Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Military Strike on Iran: Are Obama and Netanyahu Now on the Same Page?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Military Strike on Iran: Are Obama and Netanyahu Now on the Same Page?

Article excerpt

President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have found new 'convergence' on stopping Iran from building a nuclear bomb. But important differences of opinion remain.

The United States and Israel appear to be coming closer on the issue of Iran after recent intense consultations, which culminated Monday in the White House meeting between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

While the United States and Israel still do not see eye to eye on the likelihood that diplomatic pressure can compel Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions - or when military action might become necessary - several statements by Mr. Obama in recent days have reassured Israelis.

For example, Obama has unambiguously rejected the strategy of merely containing a nuclear Iran, he has described the issue as a US national security interest and not just an Israeli imperative, and he has emphasized Israel's right to take full responsibility for its own national security. The statements suggest that the gaps between the US and Israel are not as wide as Israelis had feared.

"When you put these together, it's a convergence that wasn't there just a few days ago," says David Makovsky, an expert in US- Israel relations at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy Studies.

Hints of this "convergence" were evident in the statements the two leaders made at the outset of their White House meeting, as well as from comments from officials who participated in a flurry of high- level meetings between the two countries in the run-up to the Monday tete-a-tete.

But it came out most clearly in Obama's speech Sunday to the annual national conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the prominent pro-Israel organization, and in Mr. Netanyahu's reaction to the speech.

The Israeli leader is scheduled to address AIPAC at its gala event Monday night.

Obama sought to lay to rest Israeli concerns that the US might settle for containing a nuclear Iran when he reiterated Monday what he told AIPAC Sunday: "Iran's leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment," he said with Netanyahu seated at his side. …

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