American and Israeli officials are working to arrange a meeting between US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at which the White House will assure Israel that the US will use force to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons drive by next June at the latest if the Islamic Republic has not halted its program by then, Israel’s Channel 10 news reported on Tuesday night.
The meeting will take place in New York or Washington at the end of September or the very beginning of October, the report said. David Axelrod, senior strategist in Obama’s re-election campaign, is coordinating arrangements for the meeting, the report said.
The key formulation being discussed for Obama to assure Netanyahu is that the US “will attack Iran by June 2013” if the Iranian nuclear weapons drive has not halted by then, the report said.
Despite incessant reports from Israel asserting that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are strongly inclined toward ordering an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in September or October, the US administration tends not to believe that Israel would go ahead and attack Iran alone and in defiance of the US, the report said. Nonetheless, Washington is not certain of what Israel may do.
The White House is thus looking to reassure Israel and reduce the prime minister’s concern that, if Israel does not intervene militarily, nobody else will and the Iranians will get the bomb — a situation Netanyahu has made clear he considers untenable, since it would place the Jewish state under existential threat.
It would be unthinkable for Israel to strike at Iran before any such Obama-Netanyahu meeting, the report said, and similarly unthinkable afterwards — since Obama would provide the necessary reassurance for Israel to hold its fire.
Netanyahu is already tentatively scheduled to fly to the US at the end of September to address the UN General Assembly.
The report made no mention of whether any reassurance provided by Obama would be coordinated with Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney.
On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said he did not believe Israel had made a decision to strike, Reuters reported. He added that sanctions should still be given time to work.
On Monday, Israeli TV reports had quoted unnamed US sources saying the US would not necessarily join in were Israel to launch a military strike against Iran’s nuclear program, but that the US feels a profound commitment to the defense of Israel, and so could be relied upon to protect Israel defensively from the consequences of an Israeli attack on Iran.
Also Monday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the US was committed to giving talks with Tehran a chance to bear fruit. “We continue to believe there is time and space for diplomacy, the opportunity remains for Iran to take advantage of this process,” Carney told reporters, AFP reported.