Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not the only person in Israel to doubt the sincerity of the Iranian regime. His predecessors, including the late Yitzhak Rabin, were just as concerned by the same threat. The Iranian nuclear threat is a consensus -- it is the way in which this threat must be dealt with that is the source of contention.
Netanyahu has been able to drag the international community into the Iranian issue. What was perceived in the 1990s as an Israeli problem is now seen as a global problem. Netanyahu, whose address will conclude the U.N. General Assembly, must therefore try to call the Iranian bluff.
The meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama will be slightly different. It is hard to surprise your host with things he already knows, and Obama naturally has access to vast intelligence about Iran. What Netanyahu needs to hear from Obama is exactly what kind of political line of credit Washington has extended Tehran and for how long.
When the prime minister sits in the Oval Office, Obama will have already made his decision about giving the diplomatic path with Iran a chance. With the military option buried deep inside a drawer, there is no short-term sense in picking a fight with the Americans. We can disagree and still remain friends. History is full of similar examples, even between leaders who shared political views, such as Menachem Begin and Ronald Reagan.
Netanyahu did not arrive in Washington by himself. Other than the backing of Israeli public opinion and the Israeli public's mistrust of any Iranian statement, Netanyahu also has the U.S. Congress on his side, as the latter all but guarantees him that the sanctions imposed on Tehran will not be lifted any time soon, if at all. Netanyahu is not walking into his meeting with Obama alone. He undoubtedly would have preferred a different situation, but he still has his supporters.
Fighting with Obama makes no sense, especially given the series of gestures offered by the prime minister to the Palestinians, which have ruffled more than a few coalition feathers. The renewed negotiations with the Palestinians and the release of Palestinian prisoners did not win Netanyahu any points within his camp, and the support the Israeli lobby in Washington lent Obama when the military option against Syria was still viable was another gesture/gamble by Netanyahu.
Obama would be wise to remember these gestures when he meets with Netanyahu. The tone between the two should be sympathetic rather than harsh. It is Tehran that poses the threat -- not Washington or Jerusalem.
Netanyahu and Obama are two leaders who were elected for opposite reasons. Netanyahu's electorate expects him to neutralize the Iranian threat, while Obama's electorate expects him to refrain from launching military campaigns. Both must remember the platforms that got them elected, but they must also remember that neither electorate believes the Iranians.
The ideal solution would be for Netanyahu to respect Obama's initiative and for Obama to understand Netanyahu's skepticism. The American-Iranian affair must be placed under a time limit.
Everyone agrees that time is running out and that Iran is edging closer to becoming a nuclear state. Obama and Netanyahu must not let their disagreement about how to deal with Iran drag on for too long.
Meanwhile, Israel has uncovered an Iranian spy in its midst and in an interview with ABC News, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif criticized Israel for lying to the world while he claims that Iran has no desire to become a nuclear power. The Iranian charm offensive has skipped Israel. The Iranians may have even upgraded our status to that of the Great Satan. That could only help.