Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Obama feels for us Israelis: Netanyahu

Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu says Barack Obama is silent on the issue of Gaza because of his understanding of the "distress" of Israelis.

In his comments on Tuesday, the Israeli opposition leader strengthened the widely held belief in the Middle East that the US president-elect's silence on the Israeli war on Gaza shows his tacit agreement with President George W. Bush's stance toward the issue.

The United States, which blocked a UN Security Council resolution in the opening days of the recent war on Gaza, claims that Israeli military operations have been carried out in self-defense against the homemade missiles launched into Israel by Hamas as part of its "resistance to occupation".

"I took away the impression that Barack Obama understood our distress very well as well as the cruelty of the enemies we face," said Netanyahu, who has been tipped in the polls to become the next prime minister.

The remarks were made after the devastating 23-day Israeli incursion left nearly 1,340 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.

Israel embarked on its military campaign at a time that was widely believed to have been determined by "political expediency".

With Israel's general election scheduled for February 10, all the main contenders were seeking an opportunity to prove their "hard-line stance".

Three weeks of operations against Gaza, which have caused acute human suffering, secured Kadima's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak a rise in polls.

Yet the scandal-hit Kadima is still lagging behind Netanyahu, popularly known by his childhood nickname, "Bibi".

Hours ahead of Obama's inauguration, the polls' favorite Likud Party leader pushed forward the Israeli agenda and repeated allegations against Iran's nuclear program.

"He (Obama) also understands the dangers that Iranian nuclear armaments would represent," Netanyahu said.

Israel, considered as the Middle East's sole nuclear power, along with the US and its European allies accuse Iran of having military objectives in pursuing its enrichment program and claim that the amount of UF6 at the country's disposal is "enough for a bomb".

This is while the UN nuclear watchdog conceded in its November report that Iran has managed to enrich uranium-235 to a level "less than 5 percent" -- a rate consistent with the development of a nuclear power plant. Nuclear arms production requires an enrichment level of above 90 percent.

In the opening days of the war on Gaza, former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton said the Israeli offensive would ignite a multi-front war which could lead to a military attack on Iran over its nuclear program.

"So while our focus obviously is on Gaza right now, this could turn out to be a much larger conflict," the hawkish US official told FOXNews, adding, "We're looking at potentially a multi-front war."

Amid widespread speculation that the conflict in the Palestinian territory could spill over to other parts of the Middle East, Bolton added that there is "the possibility of the use of military force possibly by the United States, possibly by Israel," on Iran after the Gaza war.

Netanyahu, who threw his support behind the Gaza offensive, is to decide how to face "a growing threat from Iran" as the likely incoming Israeli prime minister.


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