Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will ask the Obama administration on Sunday to create a credible threat in the form of a military campaign to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, according to a senior official in Jerusalem.
During his meeting with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in New Orleans, Netanyahu is expected to take a harsher stance than before regarding the Iranian program, after keeping a fairly low profile on the matter of late.
According to the official in Jerusalem, Netanyahu will stress to Biden that the West must operate with suspicion and great caution in the face of Iran's recently stated intentions to renew dialogue over its nuclear program.
Netanyahu will tell Biden that the international community must be careful not to fall into any sort of Iranian trap with regard to this expressed willingness, said the official.
The prime minister is expected to say that a credible threat of military action is the only way to ensure that Iran will rethink its nuclear program, according to the Jerusalem official. Although Netanyahu believes that the harsh military sanctions have weakened Iran, said the official, there is still no sign that they have led the Islamic Republic to consider halting its nuclear program.
"The only way to ensure that Iran will not go nuclear is to create a credible threat of military action against it if it doesn't cease its race for a nuclear weapon," the source said Netanyahu would tell Biden.
"The economic sanctions are making it difficult for Iran, but there is no sign that the Ayatollah regime plans to stop its nuclear program because of them," the source said Netanyahu would add.
Netanyahu will also say that the only time Iran stopped its nuclear program was in 2003, when it believed there was a threat of American military action, the source said, adding that the threat alone is enough to prevent the need for military action.
Netanyahu arrived earlier Sunday in the U.S., where he was also set to meet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and address the General Assembly of Jewish Federations in New Orleans.
Asked about the comments, an Israeli official traveling with Netanyahu said the prime minister call in all his meetings in the United States for pressure to be stepped up against Iran. He is also expected to discuss with U.S. officials Israel's impasse in direct negotiations with the Palestinians.
"It is our fervent desire that the current impasse can be overcome and we see an expeditious return to direct talks with the Palestinians," Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev said on board the prime minister's flight from Tel Aviv to New Orleans.
Netanyahu will meet Biden before the latter's own address to the GA. Netanyahu will deliver his speech to the forum on Monday, before his four-day visit to New York.
During the trip, he will not see President Barack Obama, who is on a visit to Asia. But the U.S. visit will give Netanyahu an opportunity to gauge the impact of last week's Republican rout of Obama's Democrats in the midterm congressional elections.
Netanyahu was scheduled to hold talks in New York with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday and Clinton on Thursday, before flying home.
U.S.-brokered negotiations that began in Washington on Sept. 2 are in limbo over Israeli construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Clinton said on Thursday she was working nonstop to break the deadlock.
Netanyahu has rebuffed U.S. and international calls to reimpose a freeze on building in West Bank settlements. A 10-month moratorium on housing expired some three weeks after the talks got under way.
Israeli political commentators have said the strengthening of Israel's traditional Republican allies in Congress could constrain Obama's ability to pressure Netanyahu to bend on the settlement issue.
Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Thursday the Palestinians would give the United States several more weeks to try to relaunch direct peace talks with Israel.
But Erekat added that the Palestinians would not buckle on their key demand for a halt to Israeli settlement activity.
Diplomats have said Washington has offered Israel a package of incentives, including ideas on security, to persuade Netanyahu to resume the partial freeze for two months.
Much could depend on whether the United States opts to sweeten incentives for Israel to agree to halt building again, Israeli political sources have said.
The proposals included U.S. backing for Netanyahu's demand for an Israeli military presence along the Jordan River, the likely eastern border of a future Palestinian state.
But Israeli leaders balked at what the political sources said was the package's vague timeframe for the troop deployment, which Palestinians oppose.
Israeli officials, commenting on Netanyahu's current U.S. visit, said that with diplomatic moves with the United States at a sensitive stage over the settlement issue, he was unlikely to announce any dramatic steps during the trip.
Palestinian officials have accused Netanyahu of destroying prospects for peace through his settlement policy. Netanyahu says the issue of settlements that Israel built on territory captured in the 1967 Six-Day War should be resolved in negotiations and not serve as a condition for talks.
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