MOSCOW, October 1 (RIA Novosti) - US President Barack Obama will meet Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, with the meeting expected to focus on the ongoing P5+1 negotiations with Iran over Tehran’s controversial nuclear program, as well as other issues related to the Middle East, AP reports.
Netanyahu, who is on a brief visit to Washington DC, hopes that Obama will reaffirm his commitment that “no deal is better than a bad deal” with Iran, Reuters reports citing an Israeli official. Israel has long tried to convince its ally that despite their rhetoric Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif do not want to sign a comprehensive nuclear deal.
The Israeli Prime Minister reiterated that Tehran views negotiations as a means to lift sanctions and create an atomic bomb during his speech at the UN General Assembly on September 29. “The Islamic Republic is now trying to bamboozle its way to an agreement that will remove the sanctions it still faces, and leave it with the capacity of thousands of centrifuges to enrich uranium,” he insisted.
Both leaders are also expected to discuss the campaign against the Islamic State (IS), a radical Sunni group currently controlling swathes of Iraq and Syria. In his speech, Netanyahu said that IS must be defeated. He pointed out, however, that in Israel’s view Iran poses a more serious threat than the terrorist group, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Moreover, Israeli prime minister asserted that “to defeat ISIS and leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power is to win the battle and lose the war.”
The United States is leading an international coalition, including several Arab states, set to destroy and degrade the IS. Obama says the Islamist group can be routed by US-led airstrikes, as well as bolstering Kurds, Iraqis and moderate elements of Syria's opposition as ground forces. “The president will make clear even with the international focus on combating ISIL, that this does not in any way lessen his commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” an anonymous US official noted, as quoted by Reuters.
Many doubt that the US president will try to renew efforts to bring the Israelis and Palestinians closer and relaunch the Middle East peace process. US-sponsored talks collapsed in April as relations between the two sides deteriorated. In July, Israel launched a 50-day long Operation Protective Edge targeting Hamas in the Gaza Strip blamed for firing rockets at Israel. As a result, over 2,100 Palestinians were killed (majority of them civilians), approximately 11,000 wounded and over 500,000 displaced, according to the UN. Over 70 Israelis died during the operation.