Obama in rabbis call: No ‘space’ with Israel on Iran, but also no red lines

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama told rabbis in a pre-Rosh Hashanah conference call that there is “no space” between the United States and Israel on Iran, but added that he would not make public a red line that could trigger a strike against Iran.

“There may come a time” Obama told 1,200 rabbis of all denominations on the call Friday, that the United States would “exercise a military option” to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon

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He said, however, he would not set red lines or a deadline, as Israel has demanded, noting that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would also not make public Israel’s own trigger for military action. Still, Obama said, “there is no space between the U.S. and Israel” on Iran. He also said that “I have been explicit and clear that we will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” Obama reiterated his belief in exhausting other options.

Obama also spoke about the recent anti-American violence in the Middle East. “We knew this process would not be easy,” he said, referring to the development of democracies in the wake of the Arab Spring. “The United States must be aligned with democracy and human rights.”

Obama said he and his wife, Michelle, “wish you a happy and sweet New Year.”

The rabbis, in introducing Obama, also noted their outstanding plea that he commute the life sentence of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.

The call was organized by the rabbinical umbrellas of the Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Orthodox streams.— JTA