Iran has not yet crossed the “red line” beyond which action will be necessary to
keep it from acquiring a nuclear bomb, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said
At the UN last September, Netanyahu – armed with a cartoon
picture of a bomb – drew a thick red line with a marker and explained that it
represented 250 kilograms of uranium, enriched to 20 percent.
Iranians are believed to be between 20 to 80 kg. short of that line, and
are also believed to have diverted some of their remaining stockpile for other
Nevertheless, they have upgraded their centrifuge capacity so
that they could make a quick dash for that “line” if they decided to do
“Iran is continuing its nuclear plan,” Netanyahu said at a Likud
Beytenu faction meeting in the Knesset.
“They have not yet passed the red
line I presented at the UN, but they are getting closer to it.”
cannot let Iran cross the red line,” he stressed.
While Netanyahu has
made this point a number of times over the last month, one government official
said he felt compelled to repeat it Monday because former Military Intelligence
head Maj.- Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin said last week that Iran had crossed that
Yadlin later clarified that “if Iran continues to enrich uranium at
its current rate, toward the end of the year it will cross the red line in a
During the meeting Netanyahu also referred to the fighting
in Syria and rocket fire from Gaza, saying the government “will not allow our
citizens to be harmed, neither in the north nor the south.”
Syria, Netanyahu said that country was in the process of splitting up, and there
“are new forces that are presenting us with two main dangers. The first is
attacks on our civilians and soldiers on the Golan Heights, and the second is
the transfer of destructive weapons – or that these weapons may fall – into the
hands of Hezbollah or other terrorist organizations.”
Earlier in the day,
a senior political source said the determination that Syrian President Bashar
Assad used chemical weapons against his people was based on clear proof, known
to various intelligence agencies, and is not just an intelligence
The senior source’s comments came a day after Netanyahu – in
a sign of the sensitivity of the matter – entreated his cabinet ministers not to
discuss Syria without first coordinating with his bureau.
the source, the information indicating that Assad used chemical weapons was
shared with other intelligence agencies, and no one appears to doubt that the
Syrian president has indeed used those weapons.
The official, meanwhile,
cautioned against believing in any quick fix for Syria, saying instead that it
may take years for the situation there to calm down.
He said that Syria
was an extremely “complicated story” that included conflicts, both ethnic and
religious, between a patchwork quilt of groups and organizations: Sunni,
Shi’ite, Alawite, Christian, Muslim Brotherhood, Global Jihad and
Compounding the situation were dueling global and regional
interests clashing there, such as Iranian against Saudi Arabian interests on one
hand, and Turkish interests on the other. And of course, the conflicting
interests of Russia and the US.
Echoing Netanyahu’s comments, the
official said what Israel most needed to be concerned about in Syria was the
leakage of weapons to Hezbollah and other terrorist groups that might try to
bring them to the Israeli-Syrian border.
These comments came as Jerusalem
was becoming increasingly jittery about the situation in Syria and its possible
ramifications for Israel.
Netanyahu on Sunday convened his new security
cabinet for its first in-depth discussion on the developments in
Also on Monday, Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett took
former prime minister Ehud Olmert to task for criticizing the government’s
handling of the Iranian threat in his address at the 2013 Jerusalem Post Annual
Conference in New York.
“We are at the height of Lag Ba’omer, and
unfortunately, former prime minister Ehud Olmert chose to light a bonfire in New
York,” Bennett said.
“The bonfire is mistaken, unnecessary and
On Sunday, Olmert expressed skepticism about Netanyahu’s
timeline for action against Iran before it acquires a nuclear weapon.
think that we have exaggerated, for a long time, the potential threat of Iran
possessing nuclear power,” he added. “They don’t have it; not only because of
their failures. Perhaps someone helped them to fail.”
Bennett, Olmert’s assessment is incorrect because he has not been prime minister
for several years and is not fully informed on the subject.
unnecessary and harmful, just as all chatter about the Iranian threat is, the
“Prime Minister Netanyahu initiated and led a
significant international effort against our greatest enemy, and I wish him
luck. Any attempt to undermine this is bad for Israel,” Bennett
The minister called for everyone to have faith in Israeli
“We have a prime minister, we have a good and responsible
government that takes care of national security,” Bennett said.
conference, Olmert also criticized Netanyahu for making public statements on
Iran that could embarrass US President Barack Obama.
contributed to this report.