- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Seeking to calm a growing rift over Iran’s nuclearization, President Obama spoke by phone to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for an hour Tuesday night and later denied reports that he was refusing to meet Mr. Netanyahu in the U.S. this month.

“President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu reaffirmed that they are united in their determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and agreed to continue their close consultations going forward,” the White House said in a hastily arranged statement.

Mr. Netanyahu blasted the Obama administration earlier Tuesday, venting his frustration at the U.S. for its refusal to draw a “red line” on Iran’s nuclear program — a line that, if crossed by Iran, would prompt a U.S. military response. He said such a line must be drawn for Israel to pull back from contemplating a unilateral attack on Iran.

“The world tells Israel: ‘Wait. There’s still time.’ And I say: ‘Wait for what? Wait until when?’” Mr. Netanyahu said. “Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.”

He was responding to comments by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said the U.S. would not set deadlines for negotiations with the Iranian government.

Mr. Obama has been saying for months that there is still time for negotiations to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

In addition to heightening international tensions, the increasingly public rift between Israel and the U.S. has implications for the presidential election, with Republican nominee Mitt Romney seeking to draw away some of Mr. Obama’s Jewish supporters. Mr. Romney has been promoting his acquaintance with Mr. Netanyahu and arguing the he would be a more staunch defender of Israel than Mr. Obama.

The White House said Mr. Obama spoke with Mr. Netanyahu for an hour “as a part of their ongoing consultations.”

“The two leaders discussed the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program, and our close cooperation on Iran and other security issues,” the White House said.

Earlier in the day, the White House said Mr. Obama would not meet with Mr. Netanyahu when he travels to the U.S. later this month for the United Nations General Assembly session because the two men would not be in New York on the same day. Israeli media reported that Mr. Netanyahu had offered to travel to Washington to meet with Mr. Obama.

The White House tried to knock down those reports.

“Contrary to reports in the press, there was never a request for Prime Minister Netanyahu to meet with President Obama in Washington, nor was a request for a meeting ever denied,” the White House said.