A secret mission to Israel two weeks ago by CIA Director Leon Panetta has led to a grand bargain of sorts: Israel promises not to attack Iran's nuclear facilities without first consulting the United States, but wants a time limit on the Obama administration's diplomatic overtures to Tehran, various published sources report.
It's not the first time U.S. officials have grown nervous over Israel's response to Iran's nuclear ambitions.
In the final year of the Bush administration, Israeli officials tripped alarms in Washington by asking the Pentagon to supply additional bunker-busting munitions whose only likely use would be to attack Iran's enrichment installations.
The Bush administration was so taken aback by the request that it dispatched Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and former Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell to insist that Israel not unilaterally attack the Iranians.
During his election campaign, Netanyahu made the ominous remark: "If elected I pledge that Iran will not attain nuclear arms, and that includes whatever is necessary for this statement to be carried out."
Panetta's visit was timed to remove a thorny issue prior to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Washington next week.
Panetta's message to Israel: Washington will not accept the threat of imminent Israeli military action hanging over its efforts to bring Iran to the negotiating table. The Israelis reportedly agreed they will inform U.S. officials before hitting Iran, London Times reports.
That agreement may not have come without conditions, however. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that while Netanyahu supports the diplomatic efforts, he wants U.S. authorities to give Iran a limited window to respond.
According to The New York Times, Israeli officials asked the United States to provide benchmarks that could be used to determine whether the diplomatic offensive with Tehran is on track and actually working.
The Times reports Israeli officials indicated that they will only wait about "a year or so" to show that efforts to reach a compromise with Iranian officials are working.
The Israelis are concerned that Iran's leaders are just stalling for time to develop their nuclear-weapons capability.
"They are making it too early to react until it is too late to react," a senior Israeli official told The New York Times.
During the Bush administration, Israel, which counts on the United States for billions in aid, consulted with U.S. officials before launching its 2007 strike against a Syrian nuclear reactor.
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