Tension between Jerusalem and Washington over Iran burst into the open Tuesday when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that those who do not place “red lines” in front of Iran have no moral right to put a “red light” in front of Israel when it comes to military action.
Netanyahu’s comments came in the wake of statements by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday, and State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Monday, that the US had no intention of putting either red lines or deadlines in front of the Iranians.
Clinton said that the US was not setting deadlines, and Nuland expanded that by saying that it was “not useful” to be “setting deadlines one way or the other, red lines.”
Netanyahu, speaking at a joint press conference with visiting Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, said that diplomacy and sanctions, while they have hurt the Iranian economy, have not stopped the Iranian nuclear program.
“The fact is that every day that passes, Iran gets closer and closer to nuclear bombs,” he said. “If Iran knows that there are no red lines, if Iran knows that there are no deadlines, what will it do? Exactly what it is doing. It is continuing without interference towards obtaining nuclear weapons capabilities and from there nuclear bombs.”
The world, Netanyahu said, tells Israel to wait, and that there is still time. “And I say wait for what? Wait until when? Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel."
Iran must understand that there are red lines so it stops its nuclear program, he added.
While government officials have spoken anonymously in recent days and weeks of a frustration with US policy on Iran, these were the toughest public comments yet by the prime minister on the matter. Since the beginning of the month he has said repeatedly that red lines needed to be established, and that this was possibly one way to avoid the need for other action.
As recently as Sunday, during an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, he said that the US and Israel were discussing these red lines.
Netanyahu will be traveling to New York to address the Iranian issue at the UN General Assembly at the end of September. He will only be in the US for three days, one of those Shabbat, and so far no meeting with US President Barack Obama has yet been set up. Obama is not scheduled to be in New York when Netanyahu is there.