Israel denied the accuracy of a New York Times report published Thursday that claimed US President Barack Obama dispatched emissaries to Jerusalem in 2012 to stop Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from launching a strike against Iran.
The prime minister’s spokesperson, Mark Regev, told the New York Times Friday that “the story is completely untrue,” and that “no such emissaries were sent” to tell Netanyahu that Washington wouldn’t abide an attack on Iran ahead of last year’s presidential elections.
“The American position to us is clear and has always been clear, that Israel has the right to defend itself by itself against threats,” the paper quoted Regev saying.
When asked how close Netanyahu came to attacking Iran in 2012, the Israeli spokesperson said that he wouldn’t comment “on what the prime minister was doing or not doing, thinking or not thinking.”
“I can’t tell you what the Americans were thinking. I can tell you what messages were delivered, and it’s not true,” Regev said.
Thursday’s report about an Israeli plan to strike Iran last year came amid increased diplomatic contact between Washington and Tehran following President Hassan Rouhani’s outreach to the West at the UN. The two leaders spoke on the phone last week before Rouhani departed New York for Tehran.
Despite the thaw in relations, however, protesters in Tehran burned American and Israeli flags on Friday and criticized Obama “for following the warmongering rhetoric of Netanyahu,” Iranian news outlet Press TV reported. Addressing the crowd, who chanted “Death to America” and “Death to Israel,” former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili charged that US organized terror attacks against Iran “as an illegitimate means to further its goals across the globe,” Ynet reported.
Last month, a former head of Israel’s National Security Council said that an Israeli plan to attack Iran in 2012 was canceled due to US objections.
“[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu seriously considered a preemptive strike on Iran, and the Americans were not excited about the idea,” Maj. Gen. (res) Giora Eiland said.
According to a report on the Israeli conservative website Mida, Eiland discussed the Israeli plan and Washington’s objections during a closed conference in August, saying that Netanyahu had originally intended to order a strike on Iran sometime between September and October of 2012, at the height of the US presidential campaign and around the same time as Netanyahu’s speech at the United Nations.