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Netanyahu On Obama And Iran

The hawkish front-runner to lead Israel next likes what he's heard from Obama on Iran:

Benjamin Netanyahu, whose right-wing party leads in polls before a Feb. 10 election, was responding to concerns raised by Israeli analysts that Obama did not explicitly say in televised remarks on Sunday that he could resort to force against Tehran if it did not bow to U.S. demands over its nuclear programme.

"President-elect Obama spoke to me about his view that Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons is unacceptable," Netanyahu told Reuters in a brief interview.

"I say that what counts is the goal and the result that he envisions and the way that he achieves that goal is less important," said Netanyahu, a former prime minister.

"I was impressed by his commitment to prevent Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold...I have no doubt that that commitment is genuine and that he will follow through with it."

(But the story also notes that Netanyahu has mellowed a bit:

Three years ago, Netanyahu called for Israel to reprise, against Iran, its 1981 bombing of Iraq's main nuclear reactor. But more recently he has voiced a preference for pressing ahead with U.S.-led diplomatic and economic pressure on Tehran.)

Also notable, the AIPAC press office today sent around Obama's comments, which a statement from spokesman Josh Block called "strong and very important." Here's what Obama said:

"We need to ratchet up tough but direct diplomacy with Iran, making very clear to them that their development of nuclear weapons would be unacceptable, that their funding of terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hizbullah, their threats against Israel, are contrary to everything that we believe in and what the international community should accept, and present a set of carrots and sticks, in changing their calculus about how they want to operate...

"One of the main things that diplomacy can accomplish is to help knit together the kind of coalition with China and India and Russia and other countries that now do business with Iran to agree that, in order for us to change Iran's behavior, we may have to tighten up those sanctions. But we are willing to talk to them directly and give them a clear choice and, ultimately, let them make a determination in terms of whether they want to do this the hard way or the easy way."

--Michael Crowley