Obama: Meeting with Netanyahu only after nuke talks deadline

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — President Barack Obama will not meet Israel’s prime minister before the June 30 deadline for the Iranian nuclear talks, Obama reportedly said.

Obama told Jewish leaders last week that a face-to-face meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu would probably end with Netanyahu publicly complaining about the president’s policies on Iran, unnamed sources familiar with the meeting told the New York Times.

For now, the president said, he would speak with Netanyahu over the telephone and an Oval Office invitation would wait until after the June 30 deadline for negotiating the details of the Iran deal, according to the Times’ article published Thursday.

The meeting came amid a White House push to tamp down its confrontations with Israel after a rare flash of public exasperation with an ally, according to the article.

Beth Shalom Cemetery ad

The White House is also engaged in an aggressive effort to assuage the concerns of American Jewish groups and pro-Israel members of Congress over the nuclear agreement with Iran, which Israel opposes because it offers Iran sanctions relief while allowing it to keep its nuclear infrastructure and to continue to enrich some uranium.

Netanyahu, who in March decried the deal in a controversial speech he  gave in Congress against the White House’s wishes, has said these terms and others risked making Iran a threshold nuclear power, ready to weaponize its nuclear program so fast that world powers would be helpless to stop an Iranian breakout.

But U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz said Iran already has a breakout capability of several months today, and that the deal would increase that time to a minimum of a year. And Obama described the deal as “our best bet by far to make sure Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon.”