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March 4, 2012 3:34 pm

Military Capabilities Divide U.S., Israel Positions on Iran, U.S. Congressman Says

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A U.S. Navy McDonnell Douglas F/A-18C(N) Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 82 (VFA-82) Marauders prepares to receive fuel from a U.S. Air Force Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker (s/n 59-1511) assigned to 380th Aerial Refueling Wing. Photo: wiki commons.

Congressman Eliot Engel of New York just returned from Israel, where he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a week prior to his arrival at this year’s AIPAC conference in Washington.

The Congressman spoke highly of President Obama’s address at this year’s conference in an interview with The Algemeiner, but stressed that Netanyahu and Obama can only assure each other of their views on crucial matters, in private.

“I thought it was a good speech, I thought the President was right to reiterate his support through the years of Israel because some people try to say he’s not supportive, and I don’t think that’s the case.  What will happen with his talks with the Prime Minister [Netanyahu] tomorrow?  I don’t think he’s going to tell an audience of thousands of people what he’s going to do but clearly there’s a discomfort level on part of the Prime Minister.  I think the Prime Minister will be happy if he hears assurances, privately,” said the Democrat from New York.

Congressman Engel, who is a veteran of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, and is the ranking Democrat on Latin American affairs, noted that the U.S. and Israel agree on the time frame in which Iran will be able to develop a nuclear weapon, however the point of no return – the time in which Iran’s nuclear weapons development becomes immune from attack – is assessed differently in Washington and Jerusalem, due to each nation’s military capabilities.

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“If indeed there has to be a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, and I don’t take that lightly, it’s a last, last, last step, I think what happens is, the U.S. has better military capabilities of taking out the Iranian nuclear plants than Israel, therefore Israel has a shorter window of opportunity to do that,” Engel said.

Asked whether he believed the President was supportive of and friendly towards Israel, the Congressman noted why some questioned his loyalty, but stressed he himself does believe the President is an ally of the Jewish state.

“I think that President Obama has demonstrated that he’s a friend of Israel, he’s demonstrated a commitment to the Jewish state, which he mentioned today in his speech.  I think where people have gotten a little bit uneasy is when the President mentions 1967 lines and settlements,” but, he said, “I have no doubt that he’s a friend of Israel.”

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