Lowering tone with U.S., Netanyahu notes differences 'even with our closest allies'
Overnight, Netanyahu held an hour-long telephone conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama to calm things down.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adopted a conciliatory tone one day after his attack on the United States' Iran policy, noting that Israel's "leaders are tested at times of differences with our allies, even our closest allies."
"We face huge challenges," Netanyahu said before a meeting with Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer. "As prime minister, it's my duty to insist on Israel's vital interests and to ensure its security and future. The most important interest today is to prevent Iran from continuing its clear effort to obtain nuclear weapons - weapons in the hands of a state that calls for our destruction and is bent on achieving its goal."
Overnight, Netanyahu had held an hour-long telephone conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama, calming things down following reports that Obama had rejected Netanyahu's request to meet when the prime minister visits the United States later this month.
On Tuesday, Netanyahu harshly criticized the U.S. administration for failing to present Iran with so-called red lines.
Sources in Jerusalem familiar with the details of the conversation said the two leaders discussed the threats created by Iran's nuclear program and the close cooperation between the United States and Israel concerning Israel's security, especially on the Iran issue. Netanyahu reiterated his stance that Iran should be presented with red lines.
The White House said both leaders were determined to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and had agreed to continue "close consultations going forward." White House spokesman Tommy Vietor denied reports that Obama had rejected Netanyahu's request to meet in Washington, since "no such request was made or rejected."
The sources in Jerusalem said the prime minister would continue to speak out about the need for red lines, since without them the "Iranians would have no reason to stop their drive to obtain nuclear weapons."
Meanwhile, the Knesset met in a special session on Wednesday to discuss the rift between the two close allies. Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Dan Meridor admitted that there were "skids" in relations over the Iran issue.
"Israel and the U.S. have a very close, intimate relationship regarding intelligence ... [but] there have been skids, there have been things I'm sorry have occurred - too many words and too much talking that I wish hadn't taken place. This is an issue everyone should handle with restraint."
Meridor said the diplomatic campaign had not been a clear failure "but has yet to completely succeed. Why has Iran not acquired nuclear weapons already? Because they're afraid. Because of an international effort led by the U.S. with European support."
This effort included severe sanctions, international isolation and the dispatching of an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf. "All these moves stop Iran from doing what it wants to do, and to ease off from a direct drive to achieve a nuclear capability," he said. "Thus we and the world have succeeded in postponing a move Iran is bent on."
Still, Meridor noted that the world had failed to make Iran abandon its nuclear project. "Iran has not given up on the idea of becoming a state possessing nuclear weapons," he said, concluding that the sanctions and diplomatic pressure must continue.
"There are many signs today of Iran's distress as a result of the sanctions. People are standing on line to buy chicken in Tehran. There is pressure to carry out budget cuts. Tens of billions of dollars fail to reach Iran, thanks to the banks."
Earlier in the debate, opposition leader Shaul Mofaz blamed Netanyahu for the rift between Israel and the United States.
According to Mofaz, "throughout Israel's history, the drums of war have never beaten so incessantly as during these days."