President Obama opened his remarks at the Saban Forum on December 7, 2013, by stating that the sanctions he initiated badly struck
Iran/>'s economy, and those sanctions drove, eventually, the Iranian people to demand a change of direction. The result was the election of Rohani as
Iran/>’s President. Throughout his speech, Obama repeated and emphasized his position, that choosing Rohani represents a substantial change in
Iran/>'s policy. By this, President Obama presents a completely contrary position to that of Netanyahu, who repeatedly claims Rohani leads a similar course of action as his predecessors on the issue of
Iran/>'s nuclear activities, and that the change the west is indulging on is merely external. In Netanyahu’s words: “Rohani is a wolf in sheep's clothing”.
Obama further reiterates that his conducts against
Iran/> and his desire in a mutual dialogue do not represent a naive approach, as can be inferred from Netanyahu's statements in this regard. The
US/> government is aware that the Iranian regime represents ideological hostility to the
Israel/> and the values that these countries seek to promote. Precisely for this reason he acts in a diplomatic way to achieve his political goals. During this six months period,
Iran/> could not and will not want to advance its nuclear program. Supervision on its nuclear facilities will be stricter, while the hard core of sanctions will remain in place. This situation will hand the
United States/> time to test the sincerity of
Iran/>'s intentions and at the same time ensures that
Iran/> will not act to acquire nuclear weapons.
The president ultimately makes clear that if it turns out that Iran is not complying with the terms of the agreement, and is not working in good faith, the sanctions policy could be restored, and even tighten. In this point as well, Obama presents a different view from that of Netanyahu, who is expressing great skepticism about the ability of the superpowers to restore sanctions after having cracks in it. Our goal, says the president, is to prevent
Iran/> from obtaining a nuclear capability. But, says the president, the best way to achieve this is to have a monitored, verifiable, diplomatic resolution, without taking any options, including a military one, off the table, if we fail to achieve it.
Obama further stressed that When the President says this, it must be taken seriously. Obama mentions the fact that during his tenure he often ordered the use of military force where required. In any case, the President emphasized, our situation with Iran will not be worse after the six months agreed upon , as implicit from Netanyahu 's remarks . On the contrary, we will have even stronger leverage to continue the sanctions and strict them. In fact, the President clarified that the knowledge required to achieve nuclear capability is in the hands of
Iran/>, and we cannot abolish this knowledge.
Iran/> is a vast country and relatively wealthy. Therefore, we must take seriously into consideration the possibility that it will try to achieve nuclear capability. However, we must, says Obama, make decisions based on available realistic options and not based on our heart’s desires.
No doubt these remarks fold a sharp criticism against Prime Minister Netanyahu. Obama implies that Netanyahu's assessments are based on wishful thinking rather than a realistic vision. Under these circumstances, with the knowledge to achieve nuclear capability already in the hands of
Iran/>, the president stressed that the goal should be to change the motivation of
Iran/> achieving nuclear capability. Namely,
Iran/>'s desire to integrate in the “Family of Nations” would lead her to voluntarily forgo the nuclear option. The best way for us, said Obama, is to examine the diplomatic path, with clear recognition that it is not based on trust toward the other side but on close inspection and verification of the reports. While the President's words indicate a serious and substantial dispute between him and Netanyahu, he chooses to characterize the dispute as of a tactical nature.
Israel/> and the
United States/>, Obama says, have a common goal - to prevent
Iran/> from being a state with a nuclear capability. It is natural that there will be differences about how to achieve this goal.
Zaki Shalom/> is a senior researcher at Ben Gurion University of the Negev and the Institute for National Security Studies at