[On March 19, the Israel Defense Forces spokesman e-mailed the following statement to WorldTribune.com: "The schedule for the United States visit of the IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, was preplanned according to requests made by American officials. Any meetings that were cancelled were substituted with telephone conference calls."]
The IDF Internet site reported on March 17, that Ashkenazi cut short his trip to the United States in order to participate in a security cabinet meeting regarding the abducted soldier Gilad Shalit.
On March 12, Ashkenazi left for a five-day visit to the United States
meant to lobby the Obama administration to abandon the planned U.S. dialogue
with Iran. Ashkenazi, scheduled to meet with the American-Israel Public
Affairs Committee, was expected to have brought new Israeli intelligence on
Iran's nuclear weapons and missile programs.
But the diplomatic sources said the administration made it clear that
nobody in a policy-making position was available to sit with Ashkenazi. This
included the president, Vice President Joseph Biden, Gates, National
Intelligence director Dennis Blair or Mullen.
["With regards to a meeting with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, one was not scheduled between Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi and Adm. Mullen," according to the IDF statement. "Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi has met with Adm. Mullen five times in the past year."]
"The administration is sending a very clear message to Israel, and this
is we want to talk about Palestine and not Iran," a diplomat who has been
following U.S.-Israel relations said.
Ashkenazi has obtained a meeting with National Security Advisor James
Jones. But the sources said the meeting would focus on U.S. demands for
Israel to ease military restrictions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
"The Obama administration believes that Israel is as much or more of a
problem as it is an ally, at least until Israel's disagreements with its
neighbors are resolved," former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John
Bolton envisioned that the White House would pressure Israel to
legitimize Hamas and Hizbullah. At the same time, he said, Obama would
continue to woo Iran.
Already, economic and diplomatic advisers to Obama have urged the
president to launch a U.S. dialogue with Hamas. The US/Middle East Project,
which includes such Obama supporters as former Senate Foreign Relations
Committee chairman Sen. Chuck Hagel, was said to have elicited a promise
from Obama to listen to any proposals made by Hamas.
"The main gist is that you need to push hard on the Palestinian peace
process," former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft said. "Don't move
it to the end of your agenda and say you have too much to do. And the U.S.
needs to have a position, not just hold their coats while they sit down."
The Israeli chief of staff has also scheduled a session with Dennis
Ross, the special adviser on Iran to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But
the sources said Ross was not regarded as being in a policy-making role.
The diplomatic sources said the White House and the senior echelon of
the Obama administration have refused a dialogue with Israel on the Iranian
threat. They said Ms. Clinton, during her visit to Israel, was largely
silent during briefings by Israeli intelligence on Iran's nuclear and
During her visit, Ms. Clinton received written recommendations on U.S.
policy toward Iran from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud
Barak, and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. The U.S. secretary said the
recommendations would be relayed to the White House.
"The Israeli government and military have been alarmed by the rapid and
dramatic reversal in the U.S. policy toward Iran," the source said. "This
reversal took place without any consultation with Israel, Gulf Arab
countries or even Congress."
The sources said Israel has sought a U.S. commitment to limit its
dialogue with Iran. Israel has also urged Obama to make it clear that the
military option against Iran's nuclear program exists.
But Obama and his top aides appear uninterested in hearing Israel's
position. The sources said a key aim of Ashkenazi was to urge the
administration to release weapons and systems long sought by Israel in the
area of aerial refueling, air-to-ground weapons, sensors as well as the F-22
In 2008, under the Bush administration, Gates and then-Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice blocked U.S. requests for these military systems. The
sources said Gates and Ms. Rice concluded that Israel could use this
equipment for an air strike on Iran's nuclear weapons facilities.
"Ashkenazi sees this U.S. refusal as what has been undermining Israeli
deterrence toward Iran and boosting the confidence of the Teheran regime,"
the source said. "The mullahs in regime have concluded that America has
dropped the military option and won't allow such an option to Israel."