Support Obama on Iran

Israel must not compromise its close coordination with Washington or be dragged into trading threats with Tehran over its nuclear program.

Iran's negotiations on the future of its nuclear program with a U.S.-led group of world powers is becoming more complicated. This weekend Tehran rejected the draft agreement for transferring the bulk of its enriched uranium for further processing in Russia and France. Had the draft been approved, it would have both reduced the danger that Iran will arm itself with a nuclear bomb, and laid the groundwork for a comprehensive deal between Iran and the West.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who was involved in negotiations on the draft agreement, even succeeded in forming a united front with Russia, which opposes expanding sanctions against Iran. Now the powers must decide whether to continue dialogue with the Islamic Republic despite its rejection of the proposal, or threaten it with new sanctions. Obama must also choose whether to maintain cooperation with the other powers, even at the price of additional delays, or support the legislation being proposed in Congress for unilateral sanctions against Tehran.

At such a sensitive stage, it is important that Israel stand alongside the United States and its allies in the international community and back the efforts being led by Obama, rather than be seen as trying to sabotage diplomatic talks with Iran.

Despite the disagreement regarding settlement construction, the administrations of Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have held regular consultations on the Iranian nuclear issue. Israel must not compromise its close coordination with Washington or be dragged into trading threats with Tehran - even if foreign leaders brandish the threat of an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, as French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner did last week.

Netanyahu acted correctly on Friday when, after meeting with U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell, he supported Obama's efforts to "unite the international community" in confronting Iran's push toward a nuclear weapons capability. The prime minister praised the draft agreement (though rejected by Iran) as a positive first step, silencing Israeli officials who had criticized the proposal. Netanyahu must now stand firm in his position that the Iranian threat is an international problem, and that it is the international community that must address it, not Israel alone. Cautious statements and coordination with the Obama administration are the right path for Israel to take.