– President Obama: ‘I’m proud that even in these difficult times we’ve fought for and secured the most funding for Israel in history’ – ‘I am proud to say that no US administration has done more in support of Israel’s security than ours. None. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. It is a fact.’
– US arms offer to Israel to delay hit (The Australian/AFP, Mar 9, 2012):
THE US offered Israel advanced weaponry in return for it committing not to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities this year, according to an Israeli report last night.
Citing unnamed Western diplomats and intelligence sources, the report in the Maariv daily said that during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington this week, the US administration offered to supply Israel with advanced bunker-busting bombs and long-range refuelling planes.
In return, Israel would agree to put off a possible attack on Iran until next year, after the US elections in November.
The issue of Iran was top of the agenda at talks between Mr Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama in Washington this week. The US and Israel are at odds over just how immediate the Iranian threat is. Mr Netanyahu said on Monday that sanctions against Iran had not worked, and “none of us can afford to wait much longer”.
A key difference between Washington and Israel has emerged on the timeline available for a strike against Iran, with the Jewish state warning that the weaponry available to it gives it a shorter window for action.
In response, the report said, the US administration offered to give Israel weapons and material that could extend its window to act against Iran. In particular, it would offer bunker-busting bombs more powerful than those currently possessed by Israel, which could target Iranian facilities even under rock.
The report came shortly after world powers known as the P5+1 – five UN Security Council members plus Germany – offered to resume long-stalled talks with Tehran over its nuclear program, but said talks must be “serious”, without preconditions and produce “concrete results”.
Earlier yesterday, a top Hamas official said it would not join a regional war on the side of Iran should Israel launch a pre-emptive strike against nuclear targets there, a stance that would limit the scope of Tehran’s expected counterstrike.
“What can Hamas do? I don’t think we would be able to do anything. This is between two countries,” Ahmed Yousef, a Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, said yesterday. “Does Iran need us? Iran is a big country . . . they can get revenge however they like.”
The statement by Mr Yousef – a former adviser to Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who is close to Hamas’s political leadership – appears to underscore a shift in a fundamental Middle East alliance. Hamas has received support from the Shia leadership of Iran and its ally, Syria. In the wake of the Arab Spring, Hamas has moved away from that axis and is reaffirming older ties with regional Sunnis.