The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has expressed criticism of President Barack Obama for refusing to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when the latter visits the U.S. later this month to address the United Nations General Assembly session. U.S. and Israeli officials confirmed yesterday that President Obama would not meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu during the latters U.S. visit. According to reports, the reason given for the non-meeting is that President Obama will likely be on the campaign trail at that time. However, on the same day, the White House also announced that the President will go to New York to appear on The Late Show with David Letterman (Obama makes time for Letterman, but not Israeli PM Netanyahu, Washington Examiner, September 12, 2012).
Surely it is more important that the U.S. President meet with the Israeli Prime Minister to discuss critical issues relating to Iran and the Middle East than to appear on the David Letterman show?
The ZOA believes that the Presidents refusal to meet the Israeli Prime Minister, following Mr. Netanyahus recent expression of concern that the international community (including by implication the Obama Administration) has failed to put down red lines on such matters as nuclear enrichment and quantities enriched to deter Iran from proceeding to obtain a nuclear weapons capability, suggests a rift. A few days ago, Mr. Netanyahu said, The world tells Israel: Wait, there’s still time. And I say, Wait for what? Wait until when? Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel … Now if Iran knows that there is no red line, if Iran knows that there is no deadline, what will it do? Exactly what it’s doing. It’s continuing, without any interference, toward obtaining nuclear weapons capability and from there, nuclear bombs … The fact is that every day that passes, Iran gets closer and closer to nuclear bombs.
Mr. Netanyahu was responding at the time to a statement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on September 9 that the U.S. is not setting deadlines on negotiations with Iran. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said yesterday that its not useful to set deadlines or red lines. The ZOA believes that this makes no sense. On the contrary, establishing red lines can enhance diplomacy and, by adding pressure, maximize its chances of success, not harm them.
It is clear that the impending Iranian nuclear threat is an existential one for both Israel and the United States. It is only common sense that a meeting between the two leaders would underscore what the White House has been professing about the two nations being in firm agreement on the need to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Instead, by refusing to meet the Israeli Prime Minister, especially at a time when the Democratic National Convention has weakened its pro-Israel positions in its 2012 Platform, President Obama is sending the Iranians the message that the U.S. and Israel are not standing together on this all-important issue and that in fact there is a rift. The ZOA urges that President Obama undo this terrible impression without delay and meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he visits the U.S.