Binyamin Netanyahu humiliated after Barack Obama ‘dumped him for dinner’

Binyamin Netanyahu humiliated after Barack Obama ‘dumped him for dinner’

 Binyamin Netanyahu addresses the AIPAC Conference

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(AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

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The President was said to have walked out of the meeting, saying to Mr Netanyahu: ‘Let me know if there is anything new’

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Giles Whittell, Washington, and James Hider, Jerusalem

For a head of government to visit the White House and not pose for photographers is rare. For a key ally to be left to his own devices while the President withdraws to have dinner in private was, until this week, unheard of. Yet that is how Binyamin Netanyahu was treated by President Obama on Tuesday night, according to Israeli reports on a trip viewed in Jerusalem as a humiliation.

After failing to extract a written promise of concessions on settlements, Mr Obama walked out of his meeting with Mr Netanyahu but invited him to stay at the White House, consult with advisers and “let me know if there is anything new”, a US congressman, who spoke to the Prime Minister, said.

“It was awful,” the congressman said. One Israeli newspaper called the meeting “a hazing in stages”, poisoned by such mistrust that the Israeli delegation eventually left rather than risk being eavesdropped on a White House telephone line. Another said that the Prime Minister had received “the treatment reserved for the President of Equatorial Guinea”.

Left to talk among themselves Mr Netanyahu and his aides retreated to the Roosevelt Room. He spent a further half-hour with Mr Obama and extended his stay for a day of emergency talks to try to restart peace negotiations. However, he left last night with no official statement from either side. He returned to Israel yesterday isolated after what Israeli media have called a White House ambush for which he is largely to blame.

Sources said that Mr Netanyahu failed to impress Mr Obama with a flow chart purporting to show that he was not responsible for the timing of announcements of new settlement projects in east Jerusalem. Mr Obama was said to be livid when such an announcement derailed the visit to Israel by Joe Biden, the Vice-President, this month and his anger towards Israel does not appear to have cooled.

Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, cast doubt on minor details in Israeli accounts of the meeting but did not deny claims that it amounted to a dressing down for the Prime Minister, whose refusal to freeze settlements is seen in Washington as the main barrier to resuming peace talks.

The Likud leader has to try to square the rigorous demands of the Obama Administration with his nationalist, ultra-Orthodox coalition partners, who want him to stand up to Washington even though Israel needs US backing in confronting the threat of a nuclear Iran.

“The Prime Minister leaves America disgraced, isolated and altogether weaker than when he came,” the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz said.

In their meeting Mr Obama set out expectations that Israel was to satisfy if it wanted to end the crisis, Israeli sources said. These included an extension of the freeze on Jewish settlement growth beyond the ten-month deadline next September, an end to building projects in east Jerusalem and a withdrawal of Israeli forces to positions held before the second intifada in September 2000.

Newspaper reports recounted how Mr Netanyahu looked “excessively concerned and upset” when he pulled out a flow chart to show Mr Obama how Jerusalem planning permission worked and how he could not have known that the announcement that hundreds more homes were to be built would be made when Mr Biden arrived in Jerusalem.

Mr Obama then suggested that Mr Netanyahu and his staff stay at the White House to consider his proposals so that if he changed his mind he could inform the President right away. “I’m still around,” the daily newspaper Yediot Aharonot quoted Mr Obama as saying. “Let me know if there is anything new.”

With the atmosphere so soured by the end of the evening, the Israelis decided that they could not trust the telephone line they had been lent for their consultations. Mr Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, his Defence Minister, went to the Israeli Embassy to ensure that the Americans were not listening in.

The meeting came barely a day after Mr Obama’s health reform victory. Israel had calculated that he would be too tied up with domestic issues to focus seriously on the Middle East.

Netanyahu: It’s 1938 and Iran is Germany; Ahmadinejad is preparing another Holocaust

Netanyahu: It’s 1938 and Iran is Germany; Ahmadinejad is preparing another Holocaust
By Peter Hirschberg, Haaretz Correspondent
LOS ANGELES – Drawing a direct analogy between Iran and Nazi Germany, Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu asserted Monday that the Iranian nuclear program posed a threat not only to Israel, but to the entire western world. There was “still time,” however, to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons, he said.

“It’s 1938 and Iran is Germany. And Iran is racing to arm itself with atomic bombs,” Netanyahu told delegates to the annual United Jewish Communities General Assembly, repeating the line several times, like a chorus, during his address. “Believe him and stop him,” the opposition leader said of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “This is what we must do. Everything else pales before this.”

While the Iranian president “denies the Holocaust,” Netanyahu said, “he is preparing another Holocaust for the Jewish state.”

Speaking on Army Radio on Tuesday, Netanyahu hinted that Israel possesses the military capabilities necessary for curbing by itself the Iranian nuclear threat, declining to specify what these entail.

The Likud chairman said “I don’t want to analyze the capability required to eliminate [the Iranian] threat, but this capability exists,” when told by host Razi Barkai that Israel lacks the ability to eliminate Tehran’s nuclear program by military means.

“This capability is eroded over time, and if we wait years then obviously this capability would not exist anymore … but right now I disagree with the claim that nothing can be done against Iran,” he added.

When asked if Bush could afford embarking on another “military adventure” after Iraq, Netanyahu said acting on the Iranian nuclear program would not be adventurous but necessary.

“… Israel would certainly be the first stop on Iran’s tour of destruction, but at the planned production rate of 25 nuclear bombs a year … [the arsenal] will be directed against ‘the big Satan,’ the U.S., and the ‘moderate Satan,’ Europe,” Netanyahu said.

“Iran is developing ballistic missiles that would reach America, and now they prepare missiles with an adequate range to cover the whole of Europe,” he added.

“No one cared”
Criticizing the international community in his GA speech for not acting more forcefully in trying to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power – “No one cared then and no one seems to care now,” he said, again drawing on the Nazi parallel – Netanyahu warned that Tehran’s nuclear and missile program “goes way beyond the destruction of Israel – it is directed to achieve world-wide range. It’s a global program in the service of a mad ideology.”

Large sections of the international community, he said, also misunderstood the nature of radical Islam and its role in the Mideast conflict. “What happens in Iran affects what happens in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not the other way round,” he said.

Netanyahu said he believed that Iran could still be stopped from acquiring nuclear weapons. “There is still time. All ways must be considered. We can’t let this thing happen,” he said, but did not outline specific measures he thought should be taken.

Referring to Israel’s preemptive strike in the 1967 War, he did say that stopping Iran required “preemptive leadership. Preemption requires will and vision.”

“Noone will defend the Jews if the Jews don’t defend themselves,” he said to loud applause. “Iran’s nuclear ambitions have to be stopped.”