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Gen. Martin Dempsey arrives Thursday, Jan. 19, for his first visit to Israel as Chairman of the Joint US Chiefs of Staff amid a major falling-out between the two governments over the handling of Iran’s nuclear weapon potential.
DEBKAfile’s military and Washington sources confirm that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands by the view that Iran is advancing its plans to build a nuclear bomb full speed ahead, undeterred even by the threat of harsher sanctions. Netanyahu therefore stands by his refusal of President Barack Obama’s demand for a commitment to abstain from a unilateral strike on Iran’s nuclear sites without prior notice to Washington.
The US president repeated this demand when he called the Israeli prime minister Thursday night Jan. 13. Netanyahu replied that, in view of their disagreement on this point, he preferred to cancel the biggest US-Israel war game ever staged due to have taken place in April. The exercise was to have tested the level of coordination between the two armies in missile defense for the contingency of a war with Iran or a regional conflict.
The prime minister was concerned that having large-scale US military forces in the country would restrict his leeway for decision-making on Iran.
In an effort to limit the damage to relations with the US administration, Defense Minister Ehud Barak struck a conciliatory note Wednesday, Jan. 18, saying, “Israel is still very far from a decision on attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities.”
Striking the pose of middleman, he was trying to let Washington know that there was still time for the US and Israel to reach an accommodation on whether and when a strike should take place.
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