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Growing U.S.-Israel Tension Over Iran

JERUSALEM – Barring any scheduling changes during the forthcoming UN General Assembly gathering, President Obama will not formally meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York. This follows Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s rejection of Netanyahu’s demand that the U.S. and its Western allies deliver a red line ultimatum to the Iranian regime regarding their escalating nuclear weapons program.

For the past several months, American and Israeli politicians have told the international media that the U.S. and Israel were in complete agreement about thwarting the Iranians from building a nuclear bomb but differed on a deadline when a possible preemptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities would be necessary.

The seeming confidence gap between the U.S and Israel comes against the backdrop of a series of detailed reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and various media sources in Europe highlighting Israel’s growing concerns about the nature and accelerated pace of Iran’s nuclear program. Israel’s apprehension about suspicious movements of key elements of the program into underground sites was justified, according to the IAEA findings.

In related news, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has severed his country’s diplomatic ties with Iran. Harper expressed his disapproval of Iran’s dangerous intentions toward Israel, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s vitriolic rhetoric against the Jewish state and the lack of productive negotiations on the explosive nuclear issue between the West and Iran – as noted in the IAEA reports.

For her part, Clinton was reportedly caught off guard by Harper’s harsh assessment of Iran’s intentions toward Israel.

Harper’s close personal and political relationship with Netanyahu apparently differs from the rapport between Netanyahu and Obama. A high-ranking Israeli government source told Yediot Aharonot, “There is an ongoing debate among Obama’s reelection campaign team about whether a meeting with Netanyahu should take place in New York. They fear a bad meeting could result in a bad photo-op that could affect the U.S. elections. There is a very serious trust issue between the U.S. administration and Netanyahu.”

Despite the ominous reports from the IAEA and Harper’s actions, a number of high-ranking American military commanders, as well as senior British and German politicians, have traveled to Israel during the past week to warn Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak against launching a unilateral attack on Iran’s suspected nuclear development and weapons sites.

But Netanyahu and Barak are deeply concerned about long-term White House and State Department policies about existential threats against Israel, policies that date back to George W. Bush’s administration. In 2007 President Bush refused to attack a secret Syrian nuclear weapons development site despite irrefutable evidence of its existence presented to the White House by then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. (Details about the spectacular March 2007 Israeli raid on the Syrian site were revealed in this week’s New Yorker magazine.)

Respected Israeli media commentator Dan Margalit rebuked Clinton and the White House for sidestepping Israel’s continuing concerns about the Iranian nuclear program. “The only thing that currently fuels the American administration is the November elections. The administration prefers to keep things quiet with regard to negotiations with Iran and not [be] involved with military muscle flexing,” Margalit said.

Britain’s Sunday Times of London speculated that Netanyahu, Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz are working on an unconventional attack scenario that would destroy Iran’s military capabilities while sparing IDF forces and Israeli citizens from massive casualties. The newspaper said that the IDF was capable of launching a lightning annihilation of Iran’s nuclear weapons by employing a devastating electro-magnetic pulse against key Iranian targets that would permanently eliminate all electronic devices and circuits.

It is believed that the Israeli government, through diplomatic channels, recently passed along a message to senior members of the Lebanese government that the IDF would also target electrical power grids in Beirut and beyond if Hizbullah, the Iranian proxy militia, attacked the Israeli home front with missiles.

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