Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the U.S. ambassador to Israel argued heatedly during a meeting about U.S. and Israeli strategy in confronting Iran, according to a U.S. lawmaker who was present.
In the account of the meeting provided by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House intelligence committee, Netanyahu was “at wit’s end” with what the Israeli leader sees as a lack of U.S. resolve and clarity about the Iranian nuclear threat.
The exchange occurred at an Aug. 24 intelligence cooperation session in Israel and it was “very tense,” with sharp, “elevated” exchanges between Netanyahu and U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro, Rogers told Detroit radio station WJR.
“It was very, very clear that the Israelis had lost their patience with the administration,” Rogers said during the Tuesday radio appearance.
That account contradicted U.S. assertions that the United States and Israel see eye to eye on Iran and appears to confirm accounts in the Israeli media that the meeting turned into a shouting match.
“It didn’t happen,” Shapiro had said Sunday in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 when asked about the exchange.
Rogers said that Netanyahu does not believe President Obama would attack to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and that the Israeli leader was frustrated that the United States has not set out clear “red lines” that would trigger a U.S. attack.
State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez declined to comment on the Rogers remarks Thursday, but said the U.S. relationship with Israel remains extremely strong.
On Monday, Netanyahu said military action against Iran’s nuclear program could be averted if the world set such a clear boundary that it would not permit Iran to cross.
Rogers, a frequent critic of Obama on Iran and other issues, said he thinks Israel will launch its own preemptive attack on Iran soon, when Israeli military capability has the best chance of damaging the Iranian program.
That likelihood could change if the White House can convince Israeli leaders that the United States would really do the job later, Rogers said.
“We’ve had sharp exchanges with other heads of state and other things, in intelligence services and other things, but nothing at that level that I’ve seen in all my time where people were clearly that agitated, clearly that worked up about a particular issue, where there was a very sharp exchange.”
Israeli and U.S. leaders have said repeatedly that “all options are on the table” to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions, including a military strike. Netanyahu told Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta on Aug. 1 that time “is running out” for a peaceful solution to Iran’s atomic program.