After failing to pressure President Obama into drawing a "clear red line" on Iran's nuclear program, Benjamin Netanyahu is going it alone. A senior Israeli official speaking with Reuters says the prime minister will deliver a specific ultimatum to Iran during his speech at the United Nations today, drawing a line in which Iran must not cross. "The prime minister will set a clear red line in his speech," the senior official told Jeffrey Heller. "The prime minister will clarify the way in which Iran won't have nuclear arms."
The move to identify an Israeli military trigger follows a surprising PR offensive by Netanyahu to goad President Obama into establishing the military trigger himself in the middle of his re-election campaign. To the disappointment of some Israelis, the line-drawing didn't happen on Tuesday when Obama merely said the time for diplomacy is "not unlimited" in his UN address. (Even though he reaffirmed that "the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.") The official speaking with Reuters says Netanyahu "will not contradict Obama's remarks," noting that the president said "Iran won't have nuclear weapons" but will go further than the president was willing to go.
Whether this is seen as diplomatic one-upsmanship or a prime minister looking after his country's best interests, one thing is clear: Netanyahu has made the last month a headache for the president. The antagonism began when Netanyahu chided the president on Sept. 11, saying the U.S. had "no moral right" to tell Israel to back down on Iran without drawing clear red lines. "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" he said. Making matters more uncomfortable, Netanyahu demanded a one-on-one meeting with the president, which the president refused in a confidential exchange that ended up leaking to the press. From then on, every non-essential date in the president's schedule was attacked by Republicans as a sign Obama isn't making time for America's allies. (Obama makes a Letterman appearance? He sold out Netanyahu. Goes to a campaign event with Jay-Z? Israel was thrown under the bus.) The latest suggestion is that, since Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is willing to meet with world leaders, she's the one doing all the work. The image above appears on the Drudge Report today, linking to the Washington Times story "Obama ducks meeting with ‘Bibi’; Clinton to meet with Israel’s Netanyahu." Appearing next to the photo collage is a not-so subtle bit of editorializing:
Netanyahu's speech is expected to be between noon and 1p.m. today.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.