President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are at odds over last week’s multi-nation talks with Iran in Istanbul, with Netanyahu suggesting that the rest of the world had merely given Iran a “freebie.”
The talks–attended by the U.S., China, Germany, Britain, France, and Russia–concluded with the parties agreeing to meet again on May 23, with no further resolutions achieved. To Netanyahu, that meant Iran had merely been able to play for additional time to enrich uranium and develop nuclear weapons.
“My initial impression is that Iran has been given a freebie,” Netanyahu was reported to have said on April 15.
President Obama responded Sunday, defending his diplomatic strategy. “We’re not going to have these talks just drag out in a stalling process, but so far at least, we haven’t given away anything,” he told reporters.
“Part of the reason we’ve been able to build a strong international coalition that isolates Iran around the nuclear issue is because the world has confidence that I’ve been sincere and my administration has been sincere about giving Iran an opportunity to pursue peaceful nuclear energy while foreclosing the pursuit of a nuclear weapon,” Obama said, according to Politico.
The U.S. and Israel have differed recently over how to approach Iran, with the Obama administration showing a willingness to accept a “peaceful” Iranian nuclear program, and leaking Israeli defense plans to pre-empt an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.
Israel–which has far less margin for error–has shown increasing impatience with what it sees as Obama’s obstinate pursuit of international consensus at the price of allowing Iran more time to develop its nuclear program–and to defend against possible attack.