Israel impatient, still mulling Iran strike

President Barack Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Monday, March, 5, 2012, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to visit Capitol Hill Tuesday after sitting down with President Obama Monday to talk about Iran.

Monday's discussion was important for both leaders.

Mr. Obama and Netanyahu agree that Iran must not be allowed to build a nuclear weapon, but the president wants time to let sanctions and diplomacy work.

When the two spoke to reporters Monday, Netanyahu never mentioned diplomacy.

And Monday night, in a speech to American Jewish supporters, he signaled impatience with the president's preferred solution. "(Israel has) waited for diplomacy to work, we've waited for sanctions to work. We cannot afford to wait much longer. ... I will never let my people live in the shadow of annihilation."

Administration sources say Netanyahu told Mr. Obama in private that Israel hasn't made a decision yet on whether to attack Iran's nuclear facilities.

Speaking to thousands at the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee), the prime minister made it clear Israel will go its own way if it decides military action is necessary. Said Netanyahu: "When it comes to Israel's survival, we must always remain the masters of our fate."

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It was a far more combative tone than Netanyahu had struck earlier Monday in his meeting with Mr. Obama, who tried to persuade Netanyahu not to attack Iran.

"The prime minister and I prefer to resolve this diplomatically," the president said. "We understand the costs of any military action."

Mr. Obama predicted there would be difficult months ahead.

The Israelis aren't saying whether Netanyahu agreed to hold off on military action. But Netanyahu told the president that, to Iran, there is little difference between the U.S. and Israel.

"For them," Netanyahu remarked, "you're the great Satan, we are the little Satan; for them, we are you and you are us, and you know something, Mr. President? At least on this last point, I think they're right. We are you, and you are us -- we're together."

To drive home his point, Netanyahu gave Mr. Obama a copy of the biblical book of Esther, which tells of a Persian ruler in what is now Iran who ordered the execution of all the Jews in his kingdom -- but the Jews prevailed in battle.

As he gave the gift, the prime minister is reported to have told the president, "Even back then, they wanted to wipe us out."

To see Bill Plante's report, click on the video in the player above.

  • Bill Plante

    Bill Plante is a CBS News Senior White House Correspondent