- Associated Press - Monday, March 5, 2012

WASHINGTON — The United States and Israel agree that diplomacy is the best way to resolve the crisis over potential Iranian nuclear weapons, President Barack Obama said Monday, an optimistic view that Israel’s leader declined to publicly endorse.

“Both the prime minister and I prefer to solve this diplomatically,” Obama said as he and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began several hours of White House consultations. The U.S. will consider all options in confronting what it sees as the unacceptable outcome of an Iranian bomb, Obama said.

Netanyahu used a brief, cordial session in front of the White House cameras to remind his host that Israel will decide for itself how to confront a looming threat that both unites and divides the longtime allies.

Israel, he said, must remain “the master of its fate.”

That was a pointed reference to the main question hanging over Monday’s high-stakes meeting: Whether to try to stop an Iranian bomb by with a military attack in the next several months. Many in the Israeli government lean toward striking very soon, a course the Obama administration sees as dangerously premature.

Looking directly at Obama, Netanyahu said Iran is right about one thing: Israel and the United States are indistinguishable as Iran’s enemies.

“We are you and you are us,” he said.

Obama will try to persuade Netanyahu to slow quickening pressure among many in his hawkish government to attack Iran’s disputed nuclear development sites.

Each man tried to display unity despite policy and personal differences, but ended up putting some of their divisions on display.

Israel and America stand together,” Netanyahu said.

The president is expected to tell Netanyahu in private at the White House that although the U.S. is committed to Israel’s security it does not want to be dragged into another war. Obama is unlikely to spell out U.S. “red lines” — markers that would trigger a military response — despite Israeli pressure to do so.

“It is profoundly in the United States’ interest to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. We do not want to see a nuclear arms race in one of the most volatile regions in the world. We do not want the possibility of a nuclear weapon falling in to the hands of terrorists, we do not want a regime that has been a state sponsor of terrorists being able to feel that it can act more aggressively,” Obama said.

Obama previewed the Oval Office meeting with a speech Sunday to American supporters of Israel, a key constituency in this election year.

Obama said he doesn’t want war but insists he would attack Iran if that was the only option left to stop that nation from getting a nuclear weapon.

“Loose talk of war” only plays into Iran’s hands, Obama said.

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