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Obama in rabbis call: No ‘space’ with Israel on Iran, but also no red lines

by Ron Kampeas, JTA

September 14, 2012 | 2:39 pm

President Barack Obama in Las Vegas, Nev., on Sept. 12. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Barack Obama in Las Vegas, Nev., on Sept. 12. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President  Obama told rabbis in a pre-Rosh Hashanah conference call that there is "no space" between the United States and Israel on Iran, but added that he would not make public a red line that could trigger a strike against Iran.

"There may come a time" Obama told 1,200 rabbis of all denominations on the call Friday, that the United States would "exercise a military option" to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon

He said, however, he would not set red lines or a deadline, as Israel has demanded, noting that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would also not make public its own trigger for military action.

"No leader ties his own hands," he said.

Still, Obama said, "there is no space between the U.S. and Israel" on Iran.

He also said that "I have been explicit and clear that we will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."

Obama reiterated his belief in exhausting other options. "There remains time and space for diplomacy," he said.

Obama also spoke about the recent anti-American violence in the Middle East. "We knew this process would not be easy," he said, referring to the development of democracies in the wake of the Arab Spring. "The United States must be aligned with democracy and human rights."

The rabbis asked Obama why he has been focused so much during this election year on the middle class, at times seemingly to the exclusion of the poor.

Obama responded that the programs he has championed as benefitting the middle class, including expanded health care, would also benefit the poor.

Obama said he and his wife, Michelle, "wish you a happy and sweet New Year."

The rabbis, in introducing Obama, also noted their outstanding plea that he commute the life sentence of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.

The call was organized by the rabbinical umbrellas of the Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Orthodox streams.

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