Israel must not trust President Barack Obama to thwart Iran’s nuclear weapons drive, a Republican US Congressman said on a visit to Israel Wednesday, savaging Obama’s handling of the Iranian crisis in a stark departure from the American political tradition of not attacking the governing administration while on trips abroad.

Speaking in Jerusalem at a meeting of Christian Zionists, Trent Franks, a Republican from Arizona’s 2nd district, said that if Israel does not stop Iran, Obama will not prevent the Islamic Republic from gaining nuclear weapons but would merely try to contain the threat. Obama has said repeatedly that he will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.

Franks predicted that Israel will “not trust other countries” in its bid to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and encouraged Jerusalem to preemptively attack the regime’s nuclear facilities if it felt the need to do so.

“I hope I say this the right way, but I’m convinced that Israel will not trust other countries to do what they have to do to protect their own security,” Franks said at a press conference. “The prime minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] has said, ‘Israel’s security must always remain in Israel’s hand’ and I’m completely for that. I understand very clearly that Israel will not be made to walk into the gas chambers silently again.”

“If Iran gains a nuclear weapon, we will need a new calendar in the world — it would change humanity that much,” Franks said. “Iran will give these weapons to terrorists the world over, and your children and mine will step into the shadow of nuclear terrorism.”

A month before US elections and on the day of the crucial first presidential debate, the congressman harshly attacked Obama — a highly unusual step for a visiting American politician. According to the tradition that “politics stop at the water’s edge,” US politicians generally refrain from partisan attacks while on foreign soil.

Republican Congressman Trent Franks, left, speaking with Minister Yuli Edelstein in Jerusalem (photo credit: Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

Republican Congressman Trent Franks, left, speaking with Minister Yuli Edelstein in Jerusalem (photo credit: Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

“As an American congressman,” Franks told The Times of Israel, “it breaks my heart to see the president of the United States reserve more criticism for Israel for building homes in their capital city than he does for [Iranian president] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for building nuclear weapons with which to threaten the peace and security of the entire free world. It is very difficult for me to understand how that could happen.”

“The president misunderstands the equation in that Israel’s timeline and their window to act against Iran is different than America’s,” Franks added. “America has some capabilities that Israel doesn’t have. And Israel cannot place their security in the hands of Barack Obama, they can’t do it… They have to act within their time frame before Iran goes into that zone of immunity that Israel talks about.”

Franks is a member of the International Israel Allies Caucus Foundation.

‘If Obama is reelected and Israel somehow is unable to interdict Iran from gaining nuclear weapons themselves, this administration unfortunately will allow Iran to gain nuclear weapon and then pursue the traditional policy of containment’

Last week, Obama reiterated his position that there was still time for diplomacy to solve the Iranian question, but added that time was not unlimited.

“Make no mistake: A nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained,” Obama said at the United Nations General Assembly. “It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy.” The US “will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he added.

The American ambassador in Israel, Dan Shapiro, told The Times of Israel last week that Washington and Jerusalem were absolutely in sync regarding the Iranian nuclear program. “We made very clear that we’re going to do everything we need to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. That includes having a military option on the table,” Shapiro said.

Franks dismissed those assertions.

“I believe if Mr. Obama is reelected and Israel somehow is unable to interdict the Iranian nation from gaining nuclear weapons themselves, this administration unfortunately, I’m afraid, will allow Iran to gain a nuclear weapon and then pursue what they believe would be the traditional policy of containment,” the congressman told The Times of Israel.

Obama voters are “very disinclined” to engage Iran militarily, Franks said. “Whereas the constituency of Mr. Romney truly understand what’s at stake… It may sound partisan but I am absolutely convinced that if Mr. Romney is elected that Iran will not gain nuclear weapons. If Mr. Obama is elected, I think there is a good chance they will.”