President Obama sought to soothe tensions between Israel and the U.S. on Tuesday at the White House, telling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the United States would never ask Israel to do anything that undermines its security and vowing to continue to pressure Iran on its developing nuclear program.
“We strongly believe that, given its size, its history, the region that it's in, and the threats that are leveled against us -- against it, that Israel has unique security requirements,” Obama told reporters in the Oval Office. “It's got to be able to respond to threats or any combination of threats in the region.”
Obama hosted Netanyahu at the White House in a meeting designed to demonstrate the strong working relationship between the two nations, after a series of closed door, late night meetings during previous Netanyahu visits provoked talk about a demise and criticism of the U.S./Israel partnership.
Netanyahu, drawing on the American writer Mark Twain, flatly denied any problems in the “special U.S./Israeli relations” and continued to speak about the richness of the relationship. “Our teams talk. We don't make it public. The only thing that's public is that you can have differences on occasion in the best of families and the closest of families. That comes out public and sometimes in a twisted way too,” Netanyahu said. “What is not told is the fact that we have an enduring bond of values, interests, beginning with security, and the way that we share both information and other things to help the common defense of our -- of our common interests and many others in the region who don't often admit to the beneficial effect of this cooperation.”
Jon Alterman, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, tells Fox the joint partnership on Iran may act as a temporary bridge between the two leaders, but he’s not optimistic the new alignment on the issue of Iran will last, nor will it lend itself to agreement on the other issues that remain for the president and prime minister.
"I think that buys us some time but the Israelis are going to have a reassessment of where things are in the winter and I wouldn't predict where that reassessment's going to go,” Alterman told Fox News. “I think, if the president does go to Israel in the next six months, one of the most important items on his agenda is going to be to bring the U.S. and Israel together on the issue of the Iranian nuclear threat. Right now, the two sides are apart and in many cases, growing farther apart.”
For Netanyahu, the latest round of sanctions passed at the U.N. and the signing of the Iran Sanctions Bill at the White House last week, proves the United States is entrenched with Israel in the fight against a nuclear Iran.
“I think the latest sanctions adopted by the U.N. create illegitimacy or create de-legitimization for Iran's nuclear program, and that is important. I think the sanctions the president signed the other day actually have teeth. They bite. The question is how much do you need to bite is something I cannot answer now, but if other nations adopted similar sanctions, that would increase the effect,” Netanyahu said at the White House.
Experts say some of the cooperation between the two sides stem from these recent moves by the Obama administration and serves as an impetus for the two leaders to work together.
“It’s important for both leaders to have a closer relationship with each other because if sanctions don’t work there will be talk of military action and they know they need a working relationship,” says David Makovsky, co-author of “Myths, Illusions and Peace” and a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “In the big picture, they are closer on Iran, at least for now, than they have been in past meetings.”