An Israeli attack on Iran to halt its nuclear program is not in the immediate
offing, but will also not – if necessary – be pushed off for years, Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu intimated in interviews he gave on Thursday to the
country’s three television networks.
“I don’t have a stop watch in hand,”
Netanyahu said in a segment of the interview to Channel 2 aired on Thursday
evening. “This is not a matter of days or weeks. It is also not a matter of
years. The result has to be that the threat of a nuclear weapon in Iran’s hands
The full interviews will be aired Saturday night.
prime minister reiterated what he said on a number of occasions during his
recent trip to Washington, that he hopes the pressure on Iran will succeed and
that Iran would “decide peacefully to dismantle its nuclear program, to stop
Starting in Ottawa last week, and continuing with the television
interviews, Netanyahu defined stopping the program as halting the enrichment of
uranium in Iran, removing all uranium in the country enriched beyond 3.5
percent, and dismantling the nuclear facility at Qom.
But if Iran does
not voluntarily and peacefully decide to halt its program, “we cannot allow the
nuclearization of Iran,” he said.
In an interview with Channel 1,
Netanyahu made clear that Israel and the US had different time references
regarding the problem.
“The US is big and distant, Israel is smaller and
closer to Iran, and – of course – we have different capabilities,” he said. “So
the American clock regarding preventing nuclearization of Iran is not the
Israeli one. The Israeli clock works, obviously, according to a different
Netanyahu also said that if Israel acted in opposition to US
desires on Iran it would not lead to an irreparable rupture, just as there was
no rupture in ties with Washington in May 1948 when David Ben-Gurion declared
statehood in opposition to American wishes; in June 1967 when Levi Eshkol acted
against US advice and launched a preemptive attack against Egypt; and in June
1981 when Menacham Begin decided to destroy the Iraqi nuclear reactor despite US
Asked by Channel 2 whether, considering what critics say is
his inability to be decisive, Netanyahu could envision himself giving the attack
order to the IDF, he said the problem was not making a decision, but rather making the right decision.
responsibility for that is on the person at the top – everyone else can look up
and say it is his responsibility.
If you don’t make the decision, and you
don’t succeed in preventing it, who will you explain that too? To historians? To
the generations that were here before us? To the generations that won’t come
after us? It is forbidden to let the Iranians get nuclear arms. And I intend not
to allow that to happen,” he said.
Netanyahu gave the same message to an
American television audience on Tuesday night, telling Fox News’ On the Record
with Greta Van Susteren that he didn’t necessarily think war with Iran was
inevitable. The prime minister said that in 2003 – after the US invaded Iraq –
Iran showed that it would halt its nuclear program if it felt that there was a
serious military threat against it. “The paradox is that if they actually
believe that they’re going to face the military option, you probably won’t need
the military option,” he said.
The prime minister also said that US
President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s comments this week
specifically saying that military operations were on the table were important.
He also praised Obama for saying containment of a nuclear Iran was not an
Netanyahu characterized Iran’s acquiring nuclear arms as a
“hinge” moment of history. “These are things that could change the world,” he
said. “We could live in another time.”
During the interview with the
Israeli television networks, Netanyahu addressed the forced resignation of his
former chief of staff Natan Eshel for unbecoming behavior toward a female
“The accusations against him are grave, and those are things
that should be condemned,” Netanyahu said of charges that Eshel looked into the
woman’s email account and circulated photographs of her. “On the other hand, it
hurts me,” he said of his longtime adviser.
Asked by Channel 10 why he
praised Eshel when he left, but did not support the three top advisers in his
office who lodged complaints against Eshel to the a t t o r n e y - g e n e r a
l , Netanyahu said he parted from Eshel in a very humane manner. He said that
his three advisers acted properly in taking the matter to the attorney-general,
but they should have informed him first.
In a related diplomatic
development, Netanyahu phoned newly elected Russian President Vladimir Putin on
Thursday and congratulated him on his victory. The men each invited the
other for a visit.