Washington, D.C. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads into his first visit with President Barack Obama worried by U.S. overtures to Iran and Syria and under pressure to support a Palestinian state.
The two leaders, set to meet today at the White House, bring diverging policies on how to approach all these issues.
The Obama administration is trying to promote dialogue with Iran and Syria, Israel’s arch foes. Israel fears such efforts could lead to greater tolerance for Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
But Israel and the U.S. dismiss Iran’s claims that its nuclear program is designed to produce energy rather than weapons. Netanyahu regards Tehran as the greatest threat to Israel — a fear magnified by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s repeated references to Israel’s annihilation.
In the run-up to the Feb. 10 election, Netanyahu derided the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which stalled late last year, as a waste of time. He has made clear in the past that he does not think the Palestinians are ready to rule themselves.
But that position has put him at odds with U.S. policy that supports Palestinian statehood as the cornerstone of broader Mideast peace efforts. Now, he’s feeling the pressure from Washington to endorse Palestinian statehood, and there were some hints that he might be shifting his position.