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Obama and Israel

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U.S. Scales Back Plans for Largest-Ever Joint Military Exercise With Israel--Obama Sends a Message

September 2nd 2012

Netanyahu and Obama

The mood is darkening in Jerusalem.

As the United Nation's nuclear watchdog agency reports that Iran is significantly increasing its nuclear enrichment activities, the United States is backing away from a fight, signaling to Israel that it will significantly scale back a joint military exercise scheduled for October. Israeli officials interpreted the announcement, first reported by Time magazine, as a rebuke.

"Basically what the Americans are saying is, "We don’t trust you," a senior Israeli official told Time. The U.S. was scheduled to send 5,000 troops into the field for what was billed as the largest-ever joint exercise between the two nations. As Time reports, now the U.S. will send as few as 1,200 troops, a 76 percent reduction. Moreover, the U.S. will reduce the "number and potency of the missile interception systems at the core of the joint exercise."

At least one Israeli official sees politics at the heart of the U.S. decision. "This is the Obama administration's response to the dinner party Netanyahu held in (Mitt) Romney's honor," he said, referring to a gathering hosted by Prime Minister Netanyahu when the Republican presidential nominee visited Israel in August.

Relations between the two nations are tense, evidenced by a reported screaming match between Netanyahu and the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, over U.S. policy toward Iran. At a weekly Israeli cabinet meeting Sunday, Netanyahu said the international community needs to draw a "clear red line" to warn Iran over its nuclear intentions. The International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report Thursday that Iran had cut off access to a suspected nuclear site while doubling the number of machines it could use to make nuclear warheads.

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