The only issue on which Israel and the US do not see eye to eye when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons is the timetable, Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said Monday. “There is absolutely no disagreement about the need.”
“The US has operated all across the world in order to thwart a nuclear Iran,” said Shalom in an interview to Army Radio, noting the US’s efforts to toughen sanctions alongside Russia, China, India and the European countries. “We believe in sanctions too, but think they can be even more crippling than they are now.”
Shalom spoke in light of a report in Yedioth Ahronoth stating that senior Washington officials sent messages to Iran, through diplomats from two European states, asking Iran to refrain from attacking US targets in the region in the event that Israel decided to launch a unilateral strike. The vice prime minister said he could not address the veracity of the report, but pointed to an article in The New York Times that said the Obama Administration is considering a declaration of American “red lines” on Iran’s nuclear development, as proof of the warm ties and common cause of the two countries.
“The security relations between the two countries are as intimate as can be. They are based on trust and joint interests,” Shalom said.
Monday’s report came amid widespread debate over the level of coordination between Israel and the US on halting Iran’s nuclear program. Despite assurances by US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro on Sunday that the relationship is as good as ever, ties appear to be strained over the issue.
While Israel has warned that the Iranians are quickly approaching a potential weapons capability and that the use of force must be seriously considered, the US says sanctions and international diplomacy must be given more time to work.
Highlighting the disagreement between the two countries on the use of force were reports of a scaling-down of joint US-Israel missile defense exercises in October, and public comments by the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, who said last Thursday that he did not want to be “complicit” in an Israeli attack on Iran.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted at criticism of the US position on Iran, telling ministers at the weekly Cabinet meeting that the international community has failed to send a clear message to Iran regarding its nuclear program. Netanyahu said that while international sanctions have harmed Tehran, they haven’t done “anything to stall the progress of the nuclear program.”
On Saturday, former minister Tzachi Hanegbi said the United States is not determined to halt Iran from getting a bomb and last week’s IAEA report, which indicated that Iran has expanded its capacity for uranium enrichment, granted Israel even more legitimacy to strike Iran on its own.