A telephone call between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his British counterpart David Cameron prior to the Olympic games led Cameron to send an emissary to Israel to discuss the Jewish state’s plans regarding a possible attack on Iran’s nuclear program.
Two weeks ago the high-ranking UK official was in Jerusalem for secret talks with Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Haaretz reported Tuesday. The message from Downing Street: Do not undertake a unilateral attack on Iran at this time. The report cited an Israeli source who asked to remain anonymous.
The British do not favor a military attack on Iran. Rather, a multifaceted approach of tougher sanctions meant to result in greater diplomatic isolation and the crippling of its economy, continued negotiations and intelligence operations are preferred, according to the report. The emissary reportedly passed this on to members of Israel’s diplomatic and security communities.
According to the Israeli source, the Israeli leadership’s approach to Iran was influenced by Cameron’s message, a phone call between Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel and repeated American statements in favor of diplomacy.
The report said that as a result of these messages Netanyahu and Barak have come to understand that an Israeli strike on Iran could severely harm its alliance with the United States, Britain, Germany and France, augmenting the negative repercussions of possible military response by Iran and its proxies.
The messages’ influence, the report said, can be seen in the last few weeks as Netanyahu has spoken publicly and repeatedly of the need for “red lines” to be set for the Iranian nuclear program. The report called this an adjustment of Netanyahu’s position.
On Sunday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US will not set deadlines for Iran and still considers negotiations and sanctions the best way to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.
Asked if the Obama administration will lay out sharper red lines for Iran or state explicitly the consequences of Tehran failing to negotiate a deal with world powers over its nuclear program by a certain date, Clinton told Bloomberg news, “We’re not setting deadlines.”
“We’re watching very carefully about what they do, because it’s always been more about their actions than their words,” Clinton said in an interview following visits to China and Russia, where she spoke with leaders of both countries to seek cooperation on Iran.
Last week, after The New York Times reported that the administration was considering delineating certain red lines that, if crossed by Iran in its nuclear drive, would trigger a resort to military force, Netanyahu welcomed the idea. “The greater the resolve and the clearer the red line, the less likely we’ll have conflict,” he said.
In an interview with the CBC last week Netanyahu praised Canada’s recent surprise withdraw of diplomatic staff from Tehran and called the significance of its actions “the impact of example.” He said Israel is in close contact with Canada and hopes its actions will serve as an example for other nations in order to help create “clear red lines” for Iran regarding its nuclear weapons program.
The issue is “a clear delineation of a line that Iran cannot cross in its pursuit for nuclear weapons capability,” and that if Iran saw that “there is a chance” that it might take pause and think “before they cross that line.”
Netanyahu said Canada might influence other countries in laying out that line. “There are moments in history in which people have to take a moral stand, and there are moments in which the right thing to do is the smart thing to do, and Canada did the right thing and the smart thing.”
A report on Israel’s Channel 10 news last week went so far as to assert that Israel would not attack Iran this year if President Barack Obama sets out his “red lines” and offers certain other promised assurances to Netanyahu at a meeting between the two tentatively scheduled for Thursday, September 27.
Ron Friedman and Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report