Israel: U.S. Must Set Red Line for Iran

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 11 2012 5:15 PM

Israel: U.S. Has No “Moral Right” To Stop Attack on Iran if it Doesn’t Set Red Line

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem

Photo by GALI TIBBON/AFP/GettyImages

UPDATE: An Israeli official said Tuesday afternoon that the White House rejected a request by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to meet President Obama when he's scheduled to be in the United States for the U.N. General Assembly later this month, reports Reuters. It's yet one more sign of the strained relations between Netanyahu and Obama. A U.S. offical tells the Washington Post it was a scheduling conflict because the two leaders would be in New York on different days but that seems to be a transparent excuse considering that Netanyahu had offered to travel to Washington for the meeting.

Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 3:01 p.m.: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear Tuesday that relations with the Obama administration are tense as he harshly criticized the White House for its unwillingness to set deadlines, or limits, to Iran’s uranium enrichment program. Netanyahu said that those who are unwilling to set ultimatums for Iran “don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.” It was clearly a response to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who had told Bloomberg Radio Sunday that the United States is “not setting deadlines” for Iran, insisting instead that "we're watching very carefully," reports the Washington Post.

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That clearly is not enough for Netanyahu. “The fact is that every day that passes, Iran gets closer and closer to nuclear bombs,” Netanyahu said at a news conference. “The world tells Israel: ‘Wait. There’s still time.’ And I say: ‘Wait for what? Wait until when?’” Netanyahu’s remarks “were among the strongest he has made over Iranian enrichment activities,” points out the New York Times. Netanyahu insisted that the economic sanctions on Iran have not stopped its nuclear program.

Netanyahu seems to fear that the White House is gradually accepting the idea of a nuclear Iran. In Haaretz, Anshel Pfeffer points out that his harsh words were probably precipitated by an op-ed column in the New York Times this week by former executive editor Bill Keller, who wrote that, if forced to choose, “I would swallow hard and take the risks of a nuclear Iran over the gamble of a preemptive war.” There’s a fear within Netanyahu’s circle that this will be the view that will soon become the norm in Washington, according to Haaretz.

Some analysts, however, continue to insist that Netanyahu’s rhetoric has more to do with pressuring international powers and internal politics than any indication of Israel’s real intentions. Meanwhile, in Israel, some are growing increasingly suspicious that Netanyahu takes advantage of the Iranian threat in order to divert attention from the country’s economic woes, as Yossi Yona writes in Ynetnews.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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