Defense Minister Ehud Barak departed Tuesday evening for Washington, where he is expected to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama and to discuss Iran's nuclear program at a huge Jewish gathering over the weekend. The meeting is expected to take place at the Union for Reform Judaism Biennial in Washington, which begins Wednesday and is considered the largest gathering of Jews in North America.
An estimated 6,000 participants will attend the biennial, including representatives of some 500 Jewish communities from around the world. Barak will address the conference on Thursday and Obama will speak Friday. The defense minister is also scheduled to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other top security and intelligence officials.
Barak will discuss "all issues on the table" with U.S. officials, but the Iranian nuclear issue will top the agenda, his office said on Tuesday.
Get the Israel Hayom newsletter sent to your mailbox!
Last week at the Saban Forum, an annual conference in Washington focusing on U.S.-Israel relations, Panetta reiterated calls for Israel to work together with the U.S. and the rest of the world to prevent a nuclear Iran. Sparking controversy, he also said Israel needs to "just get to the damn table" and immediately restart negotiations with the Palestinians, as well as do more to prevent international isolation.
According to officials in Jerusalem, Barak's travel schedule -- which has become significantly more intense in recent months -- is a direct indicator of mounting Israeli efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb.
Barak's visit to the U.S. has seemed to some to step on the toes of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The political echelon, however, has preferred to have Barak fill in for Lieberman in matters of U.S.-Israel relations. Barak has generally been the Israeli envoy to meet with Clinton and other U.S. officials. Lieberman, who has a tense relationship with Clinton, has clarified that he meets with her only when necessary.
Lieberman commented earlier this week on Russian policy on Syria, saying, "The U.S. is urging Russia to act against Syria, but will not speak with the Russians about the day after Assad." Israeli and Russian policy on Syria differs, he said, but the two countries are still able to maintain dialogue on regional issues.
His remarks were a continuation of comments made last week, when he opened himself up to criticism by saying that the recent Russian elections -- which have brought thousands of Russians into the streets to protest fraud by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin -- were "absolutely fair, free and democratic."
Lieberman also stressed that Russia helped the U.N. formulate its policy against Libya before the fall of leader Moammar Gadhafi, but that after his overthrow, Russia was not included in Libyan issues and Russian businessmen were dismissed from Libya.
Like our newsletter? 'Like' our Facebook page!