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Israeli leaders dispute rumor of rift over Prime Minister's public scolding of U.S.

| Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, 6:04 p.m.

As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sought to ramp up pressure on Iran's nuclear program with hints he might order a unilateral attack on Iran, he's been staunchly supported by Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Lately, there have been cracks emerging.

Amid this week's flare-up between Netanyahu and President Obama over how to confront Iran, the Israeli defense minister appeared to break ranks. He criticized the prime minister for his public scolding of the White House, saying “we must not forget that the U.S. is Israel's main ally” and that differences should be resolved behind closed doors.

Observers believe those remarks have wider significance: After months of publicly and privately backing an aggressive posture towards Iran, Barak seems to have joined those opposing an attack any time soon.

“Barak⅜ came to recognize that without America you can't do a thing like attack an Iranian nuclear site,” said Shimon Shiffer, a veteran columnist with the Yediot Ahronot newspaper. “He is not with Netanyahu at this stage. Their alliance is over.”

Perhaps. But Barak himself is denying major differences. “I always see eye to eye ⅛with Netanyahu. We see a similar threat,” he told Israel's Globes newspaper. “It is extremely important that when Israel says it cannot allow Iran to attain nuclear capability and that all options are on the table that it means it,” he said.

Netanyahu insinuated in an interview published on Friday that Israel cannot entirely rely on the United States to act against Iran's nuclear program, a sign that the Israeli leader is not backing down.

“I hear those who say we should wait until the last minute. But what if the U.S. doesn't act? It's a question that must be asked,” Netanyahu told Israel Hayom in an interview.

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