More Israeli Concerns Over Changing U.S. Policy

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Israel is concerned about remarks White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (above) made during a closed-door meeting Sunday with 300 major donors of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the powerful pro-Israel lobby in Washington.

While expressing unwavering U.S. support for Israel, Israeli media reported that Emanuel also said confronting Iran depends on making progress in negotiations seeking to create a Palestinian state.

(AP Photo/Uriel Sinai, Pool)
Israel's hawkish new government flatly rejects that linkage. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (at left) sees the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran as a threat to the existence of the State of Israel — a separate and far more pressing threat than that of the Palestinians. Netanyahu will make that clear when he meets President Obama in two weeks at the White House.

Netanyahu is especially concerned about Mr. Obama's plans to negotiate with Iran. Israeli officials say the talks will allow Iran to buy time while moving closer to nuclear capability. Netanyahu will urge the President to put a time limit on the talks while tightening economic sanctions on Iran.

Netanyahu has also said "Israel will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons — with all the implications." In other words, Israel would consider a unilateral, preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities as a last resort.

The Israeli public at large is also skeptical about U.S. talks with Iran. A poll by Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv shows that, while 60 percent of Israelis have a favorable opinion of President Obama, only 32 percent approve of his policy regarding Israel.

"What the public is saying is that... we don't know much about Obama and don't trust him," said Professor Eytan Gilboa, who conducted the poll.

This is in sharp contrast to the attitude of American Jews. Tracking polls conducted through Mr. Obama's first 100 days in office show that 79 percent of U.S. Jews approve of Mr. Obama's performance.

This story was filed by CBS Radio News correspondent Robert Berger in Jerusalem.
  • Robert Berger

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