Netanyahu to Obama: Israel Must Be ‘Master of its Fate’

Posted March 5th, 2012 at 5:55 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama has appealed to Israel's visiting prime minister to give sanctions time to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions. But Benjamin Netanyahu declined to back down from possible military action, saying his country must be the “master of its fate.”

Speaking Monday at the White House before their meeting, Mr. Obama said he has a “rock solid” commitment to Israel's security. He said he expects a series of “difficult months” this year as the United States and Israel coordinate their response to Iran's nuclear activities.

Tehran denies pursuing an atomic weapons program and says its nuclear ambitions are peaceful.

Mr. Obama said there is “still a window” to resolve the Iranian nuclear dispute diplomatically – an outcome he said both he and Mr. Netanyahu prefer. But the president reiterated his position that military options are on the table for stopping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

The Israeli leader said his country must “have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.” He also expressed appreciation for the U.S. alliance with Israel and said both nations face a common enemy in Iran. Although Mr. Obama again said Washington rejects a policy of containing a nuclear-armed Iran, U.S. and Israeli officials have expressed differing views about what might trigger military action against Iran's nuclear sites.

The U.S. says it may act if Iran makes a decision to assemble a nuclear bomb, while Israeli officials have said military action may be needed sooner, to prevent Iran from putting the pieces of a bomb beyond the reach of an attack. The two leaders remain far apart on any explicit nuclear “red lines” that Tehran must not be allowed to cross.

In a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington Sunday, Mr. Obama said the United States and Israel should give more time for diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran to “sink in.” He cautioned against what he called “too much loose talk of war” with Iran, potentially leading to further spikes in global oil prices and regional instability.

While many Western leaders suspect Iran is secretly working to achieve the ability to produce nuclear weapons through its uranium enrichment activities, U.S. officials continue to believe there is no hard evidence Iran has decided to build an atomic bomb.