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 is removed.”

The full interviews will be aired Saturday night.

The 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 it.”

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 schedule.”

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 opposition.

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.

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“And the 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 option.

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 subordinate.

“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.

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