Even after the public dust-up with Washington over setting red lines for Iran and a middle-of-the-night telephone conversation Wednesday with US President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will continue to push the world to set benchmarks for the Islamic Republic, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Netanyahu alluded to this, and to the way he views this as an issue of principle, during comments he made before meeting the visiting prime minister of the German state of Bavaria, Horst Seehofer.

“We are facing great challenges,” Netanyahu said.

“As prime minister of Israel, it is my duty to uphold the vital interests of the State of Israel, to ensure its security and its future. The greatest interest today is to prevent Iran from continuing on its clear steps to achieving nuclear weapons, this from a country that calls for our destruction and intends to achieve its goal.”

Netanyahu said he would uphold those interests, despite the difficulties, “because leadership is tested in upholding them even if there are disagreements with friends, even the best of friends. This is what I have done and this is what I will continue to do for the State of Israel and the security of its citizens.”

On Tuesday the US-Israeli disagreement on how to approach Iran burst into the open when Netanyahu responded to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s statement that the United States would not set deadlines for Iran – by saying that those who would not place red lines before Iran did not have the moral authority to place a “red light” in front of Israel.

That comment was followed by Israeli sources confirming that no meeting would be scheduled between Obama and Netanyahu when the prime minister traveled to the United Nations General Assembly in New York for some 60 hours at the end of the month.

Though both the US and Israeli officials attributed this to scheduling problems, it was widely reported as a new low in strained ties between the two leaders.

Apparently as a result of those developments, Obama phoned Netanyahu some time after midnight for what was described in Israel as a “long, comprehensive, sincere” conversation that dealt with “all the issues on the table.”

Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office refused to provide details of the talk. The White House, however, released a read-out after the hourlong conversation saying that it was “part of their ongoing consultations.”

According to the statement, the two leaders “discussed the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program, and our close cooperation on Iran and other security issues. President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu reaffirmed that they are united in their determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and agreed to continue their close consultations going forward.”

The statement also denied reports that Netanyahu asked to meet Obama in Washington, or that Obama turned him down.

Israeli sources said Netanyahu’s office let the White House know that the prime minister would be available to travel to Washington for a meeting, since it was clear the two men would be unable to meet in New York.

Netanyahu also spoke on Wednesday with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and thanked him for Ottawa’s decision last week to expel all Iranian diplomats and recall its diplomats from Tehran.

“Your decision is an example of leadership and morality,” Netanyahu said.

“This is an example of the right message that the international community needs to send to Iran at the present time.”

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