President Barack Obama likened Israeli pressure on him to draw a line in the sand over Iran’s nuclear ambitions as noise he tries to ignore, according to remarks aired Sunday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently urged the United States to establish what he called a “red line” regarding Tehran’s nuclear program beyond which the United States would be compelled to act.
Iran insists its uranium-enrichment activities are for civilian energy-producing purposes, but the West fears it is for building nuclear weapons.
Israel is seen as pushing a much more hardline approach that would include military action, while Washington instead prefers to let diplomacy and sanctions dissuade Iran from building the bomb.
Obama, interviewed for Sunday’s edition of “60 Minutes” on broadcaster CBS, said he understands and agrees with Netanyahu’s insistence that Iran not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons as this would threaten both countries, the world in general, and kick off an arms race.
But Obama added: “When it comes to our national security decisions — any pressure that I feel is simply to do what’s right for the American people. And I am going to block out — any noise that’s out there.”
Tensions have been running high between the United States and Israeli leader, and they will not hold a face-to-face meeting this week at the UN General Assembly in New York. The White House has cited scheduling problems.
Obama’s contender for the presidency, Republican Mitt Romney, said this was no way to treat an ally.
The decision not to meet with Netanyahu, he said, also in an interview with “60 Minutes”, “is a mistake and sends a message throughout the Middle East that somehow we distance ourselves from our friends and I think the exact opposite approach is what’s necessary.”
Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul argued that Obama’s reference to Israel as “one of our closest allies in the region” was unacceptable.
“This is just the latest evidence of his chronic disregard for the security of our closest ally in the Middle East,” she said. “Romney strongly believes that Israel is our most important ally in the Middle East and …as president, Governor Romney will restore and protect the close alliance between our nation and the state of Israel.”