Week In News: A Tense Week For Israel And U.S.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Washington, D.C., but instead of sitting down with President Obama, he'll sit down with NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday. Weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz speaks with James Fallows of The Atlantic about Israel's relationship with this White House.

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GUY RAZ, HOST:

It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: They died as they lived their lives, defending their fellow Americans and advancing the values that all of us hold dear.

RAZ: President Obama from his weekly address this morning, eulogizing the four men killed at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, this week. James Fallows of The Atlantic joins us now as he does most Saturdays for a look behind the headlines.

We've just been hearing from Rami Khouri and Steven Cook talking about what all the turmoil means for the Arab world. Let's talk about what the turmoil in the Middle East could mean for whoever is elected president.

JAMES FALLOWS: Certainly, the events of the past week have changed the agenda and the set of problems for whoever wins this presidential election. I think it's a reminder of the mixture between the foreseeable and the entirely unforeseeable that rules both our politics and our policy in the long run. For example, Barack Obama four plus years ago when he was first running for the presidency, he thought the main issue of his administration was going to be the Iraq War and how to wind it down. He's done that, but, of course, before the last election, the international economy fell apart, and that became the dominant issue of his presidency.

George W. Bush in running for office in 2000 had no idea that his presidency would be dominated by the interactions in Iraq and Afghanistan and with al-Qaida. So politics and policy involves long-term planning, and both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney had been planning for a jobs, jobs, jobs campaign and next administration. And now, through the force of events, new items face them and us.

RAZ: It just gives you a sense of how things can change so rapidly, including with another Middle East dilemma for President Obama. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had requested a meeting with the president for this weekend. The White House says it can't do that because of the scheduling conflict. So instead, Jim, Mr. Netanyahu, as you know, will appear on the Sunday talk shows tomorrow, presumably to amplify his difference of opinion with the White House over Iran. What do you make of that?

FALLOWS: Prime Minister Netanyahu's activities in the last week or so, I've been trying to think of a precedent for them and I can't really come up with one. A president for, number one, a foreign allied leader so clearly weighing in on one side of the partisan balance during an election year, clearly Mr. Netanyahu would like his former business partner Mitt Romney to win; and second, a foreign allied leader so openly making the case for the United States to take a more aggressive military line.

You assume that goes on in private as it has over the decades, but this is its own case. And it seems like one fraught with a lot of danger for Mr. Netanyahu because whichever candidate wins this election, the U.S.-Israeli relations are on a different stage right now from what, I think, they've ever been before.

RAZ: Mitt Romney will also appear on a Sunday show tomorrow, ABC's "This Week," and clips have been released. And he was asked, look, what are your red lines when it comes to Iran? He said, my red line is Iran will not be able to possess a nuclear weapon. George Stephanopoulos said to him, well, that's the same red line as the White House. Do you agree with the White House? And Romney said, I do, which is interesting. It seems to suggest there may not be a whole lot of daylight between Romney and Obama when it comes to Iran.

FALLOWS: And I think that that was a positive move for Mr. Romney both on the substance of it, of having a united American position, but also on the politics of it from his point of view. And here, the example might be Ronald Reagan in 1980 where, obviously, Ronald Reagan differed with Jimmy Carter on a host of issues. But after both the invasion of Afghanistan and the disastrous failure of the rescue mission for the hostages in Iran, Ronald Reagan was having a, more or less, we stand united as Americans front as opposed to immediately looking for partisan difference with the administration. So I think this is a welcome step by Governor Romney.

RAZ: That's James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic. You can find his blog at jamesfallow.theatlantic.com. Jim, thanks so much.

FALLOWS: My pleasure, Guy.

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