Israeli press disappointed over Obama's Iran speech

Israel's main newspapers on Monday expressed disappointment over a key speech by US President Barack Obama in which he pushed for a diplomatic solution to the crisis over Iran's contested nuclear programme.

The US leader's remarks, made on Sunday to delegates at the powerful pro-Israel AIPAC lobby, came just a day before he was to hold key talks on Iran at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"Obama promised us that the United States would not accept (Iranian) nuclear weapons," wrote Sima Kadmon in the top-selling Yediot Aharonot newspaper.

"But we should also note what was not said there. Obama did not budge a millimetre from his position, according to which the only way to prevent nuclear weapons is to persuade Iran to give them up of its own volition."

In his address, Obama gave a strong nod to Israel's refusal to contemplate a nuclear-armed Iran, acknowledged its right to self-defence and vowed he would "not hesitate to use force" where necessary.

But he made clear that the United States would use military force only after all diplomatic options had been exhausted.

"Obama didn't wait for his private meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today to clarify his position on Iran's nuclear programme," the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper said, noting the president had "urged everyone to set the war drums aside."

Israel has repeatedly said it would not rule out military action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, but in his speech Obama criticised "loose talk of war" and pleaded for patience, arguing that coordinated international pressure would force Tehran to the negotiating table.

Netanyahu is to meet Obama at the White House at 10:45 am (1545 GMT) with the Israeli leader set to give his own address to AIPAC delegates later on Monday.

Israeli commentators believe that Netanyahu is hoping to secure a pledge for US military action against Iran, or at the very least, Obama's tacit agreement for Israel to mount such an attack.

But, commentators were unanimous that he was unlikely to get it -- especially with a US presidential election looming.

"Obama’s speech was a masterpiece of political work. He didn’t aim at Netanyahu, at the decision-makers in Israel or the Israeli public. Obama spoke to US Jewry," wrote Maariv commentator Nadav Eyal.

"Those who seek quotes about a 'military option' will do so in vain. Obama did not agree to ratchet up the tone toward Iran by one millimetre," he wrote.

In his speech, Obama said the raft of international sanctions imposed on Tehran were working and he cautioned against the sabre-rattling of recent months.

"For the sake of Israel's security, America's security, and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster," he said.

"Now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in, and to sustain the broad international coalition that we have built."

Source: AFP

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