WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama
described the Israeli pressure to draw a "red line"
for Iran as "noise" he is trying to block out.
In an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" that aired Sunday, the president addressed the crisis
between Washington and Jerusalem over the handling of the Iranian nuclear issue. Obama stressed he feels "an obligation, not pressure" to coordinate with Israel.
Meanwhile, Israeli and US officials are still struggling to reach understandings on the matter behind the scenes. US Ambassador to Washington Michael Oren
has traveled to Israel to meet Netanyahu before the latter heads to New York for the UN's General Assembly
on Wednesday night.
Obama said he "understands and shares" the Israeli prime minister's "insistence" that Iran
should not obtain a nuclear weapon as this "would threaten us, it would threaten Israel and it would threaten the world and kick off a nuclear arms race."
However, in a jab to Netanyahu, he remarked that when it comes to US national security "any pressure that I feel is simply to do what's right for the American people. And I am going to block out any noise that's out there."
Tensions between Israel and the US mounted when Netanyahu demanded that Obama's administration draw "red lines" for Iran that if crossed would prompt a US reaction. Washington refused
to comply but stressed its commitment to prevent Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
The crisis between Netanyahu and Obama exacerbated as Israeli elements accused the US president of refusing to meet with the prime minister. The White House
claimed that schedule constraints prevented any meeting between the two on the sidelines of the General Assembly.
On Sunday, Obama stressed he feels "an obligation, not pressure to make sure that we're in close consultation with the Israelis on these issues because it affects them deeply." Earlier this week he noted in another interview that Israel was one of the US' closest allies in the region.
Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney,
also interviewed on "60 Minutes" criticized the president for his attitude towards Israel.
Romney said that Obama's decision not to meet Netanyahu in New York was a "mistake that sends a message throughout the Middle East
that somehow we distance ourselves from our friends."
Also Sunday, top US journalist Thomas Friedman
criticized Netanyahu in an op-ed in the New York Times. "Bibi is Winston Churchill when it comes to demanding that the US draw red lines, but he is a local party boss when America asks him to draw a 'green line' delineating where Jewish settlements in the West Bank will stop and a Palestinian state might start. Oh, no! Can’t do that, Bibi tells American officials. 'I would lose my coalition.'"