PM: Iran hasn't reached 'red line' in nuke program

"They have not yet passed the red line I presented at the UN, but they are getting closer to it. We cannot let them cross it," PM says.

Netanyahu bomb picture 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)
Netanyahu bomb picture 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)
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 Monday.
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.
The 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 purposes.
Nevertheless, they have upgraded their centrifuge capacity so that they could make a quick dash for that “line” if they decided to do so.
“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.”
“We 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 line.
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 clear manner.”
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.”
Regarding 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 estimation.
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.
According to 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 others.
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 Syria.
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 harmful.”
On Sunday, Olmert expressed skepticism about Netanyahu’s timeline for action against Iran before it acquires a nuclear weapon.
“I 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.”
According to Bennett, Olmert’s assessment is incorrect because he has not been prime minister for several years and is not fully informed on the subject.
It is unnecessary and harmful, just as all chatter about the Iranian threat is, the minister stated.
“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 added.
The minister called for everyone to have faith in Israeli democracy.
“We have a prime minister, we have a good and responsible government that takes care of national security,” Bennett said.
At the conference, Olmert also criticized Netanyahu for making public statements on Iran that could embarrass US President Barack Obama.
Michael Wilner contributed to this report.