Fletcher in the News

Israel's Rhetoric of War Designed to Force U.S.'s Hand: Prof. Vali Nasr

PBS NewsHour

Reading the Tea Leaves at Obama and Netanyahu's Meetings

President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's meetings this week were interesting to regional watchers as much as for what they didn't say as what they did.

The NewsHour spoke to two analysts, Foreign Policy Initiative Executive Director Jamie Fly and Vali Nasr, Professor of International Politics at The Fletcher School, Tufts University about what the two leaders hope to get out of the sessions. Answers have been edited for clarity and length.

What did Netanyahu hope to accomplish?

Jamie Fly: I don't think he accomplished what he wanted to. He wanted President Obama to be more vocal about his red lines with Iran, and I don't think the speech fully resolved Prime Minister Netanyahu's concerns. The problem is that Obama keeps talking about the Iranian nuclear threat as if we have plenty of time to deal with it. From an Israeli perspective, that's not very reassuring, so the president's repeated statements about how he has Israel's back and he doesn't bluff -- those aren't the sorts of reassurances that the prime minister is comfortable with bringing back to his government at home. He may well decide that he has to take matters into his own hands and go it alone.

Vali Nasr: Prime Minister Netanyahu's line from the beginning is that the red line (on Iran) should be zero enrichment, not nuke possession. President Obama says that if Iran gets weapons, that's the red line. Netanyahu wants Obama to give a narrow timeline for success or failure of negotiations, and Obama hasn't given that. He says give diplomacy a chance. So Obama sounded tough, but he really put forward an approach that undermined Netanyahu ... he didn't make a commitment to zero enrichment. He even made it sound as if Iran could go into a zone of immunity, and he'd let them. He said nothing about pre-emption. It was a direct rebuff to Netanyahu. He basically said, "No war now."

Read the full interview (more)

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