- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Israeli officials say they won’t warn the U.S. if they decide to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, according to one U.S. intelligence official familiar with the discussions.

The pronouncement, delivered in a series of private, top-level conversations, sets a tense tone ahead of meetings in coming days at the White House and Capitol Hill.

Israeli officials said that if they eventually decide a strike is necessary, they would keep the Americans in the dark to decrease the likelihood that the U.S. would be held responsible for failing to stop Israel’s potential attack.

The U.S. has been working with the Israelis for months to convince them that an attack would be only a temporary setback to Iran’s nuclear program.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak delivered the message to a series of high-level U.S. visitors to their country, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the White House national security adviser, the director of national intelligence and top U.S. lawmakers, all trying to close the trust gap between Israel and the U.S. over how to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Mr. Netanyahu delivered the same message to all the Americans who have traveled to Israel for talks, said the U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive strategic negotiations.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment. The Pentagon and the Office of Director of National Intelligence declined to comment, as did the Israeli Embassy.

Iran claims its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but the International Atomic Energy Agency has raised alarms that its uranium enrichment program might be a precursor to building nuclear weapons.

The U.S. has said it does not know whether the government has decided to weaponize its nuclear material and put it on a missile or other delivery device.

The secret Israeli warning is likely to worry U.S. officials, and high-level meetings between Israel and the U.S. will begin with the two longtime allies far apart on how to handle Iran.

But the apparent decision to keep the U.S. in the dark also stems from Israel’s frustration with the White House.

After a visit by National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, Israeli officials became convinced the Americans would neither take military action nor go along with unilateral action by Israel against Iran.

The Israelis concluded they would have to conduct a strike unilaterally - a point they are likely to hammer home in a series of meetings over the next two weeks in Washington, the official said.

Mr. Barak will meet with top administration and congressional officials during his visit. Mr. Netanyahu arrives in Washington for meetings with President Obama next week.

The behind-the-scenes warning belies the publicly united front the two sides have attempted to craft with the shuttle diplomacy to each other’s capitals.

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