Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was set to meet with US President Barack Obama at the White House on Wednesday with Iran and the Palestinians on the agenda.
Netanyahu wants to convince Obama that a nuclear Iran would be a bigger threat to world peace and security than the threat posed by ISIS, which is mostly a regional threat. Netanyahu is also worried that the world powers would be lenient with the Islamic Republic in nuclear talks in order to convince Tehran to joint the fight against the Islamic State.
Obama, however, was expected to tell Netanyahu the two issues are unrelated, and that the United States had an obligation to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, while at the same time Washington is invested in stopping the threat posed by ISIS, according to White House sources.
Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, who participated in the last round of talks between the six world powers and Iran at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, said the gaps between the two sides are significant, despite American willingness to allow Iran to continue with a certain level of uranium enrichment.
The Americans want to push Iran back to a year away from nuclear breakthrough, so there would be time to stop Tehran should it try to develop an atomic bomb. Meanwhile Israel, that objects to allowing Iran to continue any form of uranium enrichment, is willing to compromise on a deal that would push Tehran 3-5 years away from nuclear breakthrough.
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Iran makes the lion's share of Netanyahu's agenda for his meeting with the US president, followed by the threat of Islamist terrorism and only then the Palestinian issue. Obama, on the other hand, is interested in broaching the topic of "Israel’s relations with Palestinians, including the situation in Gaza," and only then discuss developments related to Iran and the international battle against ISIS.
"Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit is a demonstration of the deep and enduring bonds between the United States and Israel, and our close consultations on a range of regional issues," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a press briefing on Monday.
The prime minister's visit to Washington is a quick one. He was scheduled to make his way straight to the White House upon his arrival in Washington for his hour-and-a-half meeting with the president, and then fly straight back to New York.
The meeting might have not taken place if it hadn't been for the upcoming midterm elections on November 4, in which Israel has turned into a hot topic by Republicans trying to take back the Senate.
Secretary of State John Kerry met with Netanyahu in New York, and with Israeli peace negotiator Tzipi Livni in Washington on Monday, but no details of these meetings emerged.