Responding to US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s Friday statement in Foreign Policy that Israel’s insistence that the US draw a “red line” on Iran would place the US in an untenable position, Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor denied Sunday that the prime minister was trying to push the US to take a position against its will, but said that it was important to show determination on the issue.
Despite the public dispute between Washington and Jerusalem over setting “red lines” for Tehran, Meridor said in an interview to Israel Radio he is convinced that the Israeli and US governments are on the same page, and are both determined to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.
“Conflicts between Washington and Jerusalem are not desirable, but occur from time to time,” said Meridor. “It’s preferable for all that differences be discussed behind closed doors, but in an open world like ours, sometimes things come out.”
Even as the war of words on Iran continued to make headlines on both sides of the Atlantic, most recently with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s interview on NBC, Meridor focused on the achievements of the two governments’ cooperation, citing the rigorous economic sanctions on Iran which he asserted have prevented Tehran from taking the final steps towards nuclear armament.
“I would not make light of President Obama’s assertion that he would not allow a nuclear armed Iran. If I was an Iranian leader, I would dwell on that from morning to night,” said Meridor, who is also minister of intelligence.
Meridor said that Iran’s nuclear drive posed “a huge risk to us and to the entire regional, and world, order,” and stressed that in dealing with the Iranian threat there had been successes as well as failures.
On one hand, because of its fear of the world’s response, Iran has not achieved a nuclear weapon, but on the other hand, it hasn’t stopped its attempts entirely either, said Meridor. He credited Netanyahu for bringing the issue to the forefront of world attention and added that the goal was to see Iran end its nuclear activities and fail to reach even the threshold stage of nuclear weapon development.
“An Iran that is a decision away from achieving nuclear weapons is also a nuclear-armed Iran,” said Meridor, referring to Obama’s assurance that the United States would not allow Iran to manufacture a nuclear weapon.
The US and Israel became embroiled in a standoff last week after first US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then Obama both publicly said they would not set “red lines” on Iran’s nuclear program, beyond which military action would be used.
Netanyahu had called for such lines as a way of calming Israeli fears over Iran’s drive toward a nuclear weapon.
After Clinton’s comments, Netanyahu rebuked Washington, saying a country that would not set “red lines” had moral no right telling Israel not to take military action itself.
On Friday, Panetta seemed to admonish Netanyahu, in turn.
“What [leaders] have are facts that are presented to them about what a country is up to, and then they weigh what kind of action is needed to be taken in order to deal with that situation,” Panetta said. “I mean, that’s the real world. ‘Red lines’ are kind of political arguments that are used to try to put people in a corner.”
On Friday, Obama told a group of rabbis that there was no distance between Washington and Jerusalem on the Iranian issue.