JERUSALEM — Israel's prime minister sets off this week on a U.S. visit clouded by a deepening rift with Washington, which is pressing Israel to hold off on any attack against Iran's suspect nuclear program.
Although Israel says it hasn't decided whether to strike, it has signaled readiness to do so — a move that would have deep worldwide implications.
Senior Israeli officials say Israel would have to act by summer to be effective. U.S. officials, wary that an Israeli strike could drive up oil prices and entangle the United States in a new Mideast military confrontation during the presidential election season, want to give diplomacy and sanctions more time to work.
These differences have created tension ahead of Benjamin Netanyahu's arrival at the White House on Monday. Aides to the Israeli leader would not say what he plans to tell President Barack Obama.
"The meeting will be a good opportunity to clarify both sides' stands on . . . how to act against the Iranian nuclear threat, which both sides agree is grave," Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon told Israel Radio.
Israel takes little comfort in the U.S. assessment, reiterated Tuesday by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, that Tehran has not decided whether to build a nuclear bomb. Iran denies it is making nuclear weapons.