How Bibi Learned To Trust Barack

The prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran has forged a fragile peace between the leaders of Israel and the U.S.

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Photography by Platon

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The new unity may have helped deliver progress on the diplomatic front. The day of the summit, Iran annulled the death sentence of an alleged American spy. The next day, Iran said it would allow IAEA inspectors into the Parchin facility, and the E.U. foreign policy chief announced that the U.S., the four other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany would restart talks with Iran on its nuclear program. Given the Iranians' history of using negotiations to stall, Obama said at a press conference the same day, "we will have a pretty good sense fairly quickly as to how serious they are about resolving the issue."

How long will the March truce between Bibi and Barack last? That depends on Iran. In their private meeting, neither man got exactly what he wanted--for Bibi, a promise from Obama to bomb Iran by a certain date; for Obama, a promise from Bibi not to. Netanyahu believes open-ended talks without an absolute freeze of the Iranian program will simply permit Iran to continue its pursuit of nuclear weapons and, Administration officials say, Netanyahu explicitly told the President he had not decided whether he would attack Iran unilaterally. Obama argues that the latest round of sanctions targeting Iran's oil and banking sectors, which start in June, must be given time to work, and he refuses to say when the U.S. might stop talks and start bombing.

At the least, the White House is confident that the Israelis are more assured about Obama's seriousness in preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. The President even acknowledged that there might be a deadline, perhaps early next year, when his patience with Iran would run out. "We have a window through which we can resolve this issue peacefully," Obama said at a press conference the day after the summit.

Once that window closes, Netanyahu and Obama may find that Iran will bring them much closer together than either man could have managed by himself.


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