Photo: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images
An Israeli government minister has sought to defuse accusations that Binyamin Netanyahu is attempting to influence the outcome of the US presidential election, saying Israel’s official policy is “to stay as far away as possible” from its ally’s domestic politics.Danny Ayalon, Israel’s deputy foreign minister and a former ambassador to the US, told a conference in New York that Israel “makes no distinctions” between Democrats and Republicans. “Israel has no better friend than the US and no better friend than President Obama in the international community,” he said, according to a report in Haaretz.
Footage of Netanyahu featured in a political advertisement broadcast in the swing state of Florida. The ad was produced by Secure America Now, a hawkish non-profit organisation, without the consent of the Israeli prime minister’s office.
Ayalon told the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organisations that he wanted to set the record straight in case there was any “misreading” of Israel’s intentions. The current “noise” over US-Israel relations was a result of “not very well judiciously planned remarks from both sides” being misconstrued. On the issue of Iran, Israel and the US “see eye to eye”, Ayalon said.
Relations between the US and Israel have been severely strained in recent weeks over the issue of how to deal with Iran’s nuclear programme. Netanyahu has publicly demanded that the US sets clear “red lines” beyond which it would take military action to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities. The US has declined to do so.
After a press conference at which Netanyahu said that without red lines there could be no “red light” to unilateral military action by Israel, he and Obama spent an hour on the phone in an attempt to repair the breach. But officials in Jerusalem subsequently claimed that the White House had rejected a request for a face-to-face meeting when Netanyahu visits the US next week. US officials denied this version of events.
Obama’s opponent in the election, Mitt Romney, has adopted a significantly more hawkish stance on Iran. Netanyahu’s warm relationship with Romney contrasts with the froideur between him and Obama.
A spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry said he could not confirm the veracity of Ayalon’s remarks.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk
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