President Barack Obama’s refusal Tuesday Sept. 11 to see Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu because “the president’s schedule will not permit that,” left Jerusalem thunderstruck – and Washington too.
At one stroke, round after round of delicate negotiations on Iran between the White House, Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, the US National Security Council, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta collapsed. They had aimed at an agreement on a starting point for the meeting that had been fixed between the two leaders for Sept. 28 in New York to bridge their differences over an attack on Iran’s nuclear program.
By calling off the meeting, the US president has put paid to those hopes and publicly humiliated the Israel prime minister, turning the clock back to the nadir of their relations brought about by the comment by Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Aug. 30: “I don’t want to be complicit if they [Israel] choose to do it” – meaning attack Iran.
By rebuffing Netanyahu, the president demonstrated that the top US soldier was not just talking off the cuff but representing the president’s final position on a possible Israel strike to preempt Iran’s nuclear program.