Officials in Jerusalem have reportedly approached the White House about finding a way for US President Barack Obama to issue a strong ultimatum to Iran during his UN speech on Tuesday, without looking like he’s given in to Israeli demands.
Obama has rebuffed Israeli calls to set clear “red lines” on Iran’s nuclear program, beyond which military action would become inevitable, and his speech at the United Nations General Assembly is expected to focus mostly on engaging the Muslim world while keeping America strong in a time of growing unrest.
According to Maariv, officials from the Prime Minister’s Office are hoping Obama will also use the UN forum to speak about red lines on Iran’s enrichment activity, which is widely believed to be for military purposes.
They argue that making a speech in the international arena, and not as part of talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will make it seem less like Washington has caved to Israeli pressure.
The gambit seems a long shot. On Sunday, Obama appeared to characterize Netanyahu’s pressure as “noise” and gave little indication he would use the speech to set red lines.
“When it comes to our national security decisions, any pressure that I feel is simply to do what’s right for the American people,” Obama told CBS. “And I am going to block out any noise that’s out there.”
Relations between the US and Israel hit a low in the last several weeks as the sides tussled over how to deal with Iran.
Israel has made overtures to strike Iran’s program before it is too late, while the US and much of the West believe time remains for diplomacy and sanctions to convince Tehran to back down.
In August, administration officials in Washington said they would not be setting any red lines. Netanyahu responded to the move by saying the US had no right to hold Israel back from a strike if it did not back it up in creating a credible threat of such.
Officials from the Prime Minister’s Office tried to set up a meeting between Obama and Netanyahu on the sidelines of the UN conference, but the White House said it did not fit their schedule. Obama will not meet with any world leaders, opting instead to focus on domestic electioneering as the Nov. 6 presidential vote nears.
Instead Netanyahu will meet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after arriving in New York Thursday morning, following the Yom Kippur fast.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.