Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said that countries that refused to set deadlines for Iran to give up its nuclear program have no right to tell Israel to hold back on taking preemptive military action to thwart the regime’s nuclear ambitions.

His comments constituted an explicit and bitter rebuttal of comments made by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said on Sunday that the US will currently not set deadlines or give ultimatums regarding Tehran’s refusal to curb its nuclear program.

“The world tells Israel to wait because there is still time. And I ask: Wait for what? Until when? Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel,” Netanyahu said. “If Iran knows that there is no red line or deadline, what will it do? Exactly what it is doing today, i.e., continuing to work unhindered toward achieving a nuclear weapon.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem on Monday. (photo credit: Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem earlier this summer (photo credit: Ohad Zwigenberg/Flash90)

Reacting to Netanyahu’s demand for the US to set red lines — which, if crossed by Iran, would prompt US-led military action — Clinton said on Sunday that Washington still considers sanctions the best way to get Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions. “We’re not setting deadlines,” she said.

On Monday, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland reiterated Clinton’s statement, saying setting red lines was “not useful.” She added: “So, you know, we are absolutely firm about the president’s commitment here, but it is not useful to be parsing it, to be setting deadlines one way or the other, red lines.”

Netanyahu’s recent calls for the international community to set clear red lines regarding the Iranian threat was understood by many analysts as a way to signalize Israel’s willingness to hold back on a unilateral and uncoordinated strike on Iran after growing international opposition to such a move became apparent in recent weeks.

Speaking in Jerusalem at joint press conference with his Bulgarian counterpart, Boyko Borisov, Netanyahu differed with the US, too, over the impact of sanctions on Iran.

“As of now, we can clearly say that diplomacy and sanctions have not worked. They have hit the Iranian economy but they haven’t stopped the Iranian nuclear project,” Netanyahu said. “This is a fact. Another fact is that every day Iran gets closer to a nuclear bomb.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Deputy Knesset Speaker and Likud MK Danny Danon openly attacked Clinton for her refusal to set a deadline for military action to thwart Iran. Her statement “is a slap in the face [for Israel], the United States’ closest ally in the Middle East,” he said. “Instead of [the US] standing steadfastly at our side, the secretary’s comments only serve to embolden the Iranians and likely hasten their weapons program. We expect more from our American friends, who have pledged close cooperation in combating this radical threat to the free world.”

The Israeli and Bulgarian governments on Tuesday held their second intergovernmental consultation in Jerusalem. On the agenda was the signing of a security cooperation agreement, which includes assurances for the security of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, among other things. In July, five Israeli tourists and their local bus driver were killed in a terror attack in the Bulgarian vacation resort of Burgas.