Iran has not crossed the “red line” in terms of obtaining the nuclear capability to threaten Israel, but remains the number one threat to regional stability, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israel’s ambassadors on Thursday.

Speaking at an annual Foreign Ministry conference for overseas personnel, the prime minister stressed that Israel remains committed to preventing Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Netanyahu, who is in the midst of an election campaign that focuses on his claimed strong leadership and ability to meet regional threats, told the diplomats he expects the instability in the Middle East to continue in the short term, but that a positive change is possible in the long run if Iran is prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sets out his 'red line' for Iran on a cartoon bomb drawing during a September 27 speech to the General Assembly (photo credit: Avi Ohayun, GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sets out his ‘red line’ for Iran on a cartoon bomb drawing during a September 27 speech to the General Assembly (photo credit: Avi Ohayun, GPO)

In September, Netanyahu spoke to the UN General Assembly about the importance of addressing — and thwarting — Iran’s nuclear program. During the speech, the prime minister produced a cartoon image of a bomb, depicting what he referred to as the “first stage,” “second stage.” and “final stage” of Tehran’s nuclear program.

Netanyahu told the UN that the world must set out clear “red lines” for Iran, which, if crossed, would precipitate a Western military campaign. The question of “red lines” has been a bone of contention between Israel and the US, with the White House refusing to set a specific time or technological development that would be seen as a point of no return and force military intervention.

The red line must be set “before Iran gets to the point where it is a few months away or a few weeks away” from amassing enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon, Netanyahu said in that New York speech, driving his message home by drawing a thick — and very literal — line with a red marker across the cartoon image of the bomb in his hand.